There's One Question That Will Help You Figure Out Your Career Path

Stop (really stop) and consider this question: Why do you go to work every day?

Maybe it’s because you enjoy your coworkers, feel a pleasant challenge in the work you perform, or that you believe in your company’s mission. Or is it simply to bring home a paycheck?

Are you happy with your answer? I hope you are.

But if you aren’t, why not consider making some changes to feel more fulfilled? If you’re not sure how that’s done, we have a great example of someone who drove her career forward in multiple ways, including a new role and the opportunity to marry her personal values with her company’s.

And now, she’s so satisfied in her role that she commutes two hours each way. Every. Day.

Meet Laine Hoggan, Proud 4-Hour Commuter

“I don’t ever see myself leaving this company. I believe in the mission and the people I work with, and I enjoy my autonomy when it comes to side projects.”

That’s Laine. She commutes to work each day for multiple reasons: the positive mission that resonates with her values, her joy in what she does, and because she personally makes a difference there. Who else do you know (yourself included) who will confidently say that they don’t ever see themselves leaving their current company—because they’re so happy?

Yes, Laine did land at a company aligned with her goals and values. That helps, but she also worked hard, stuck her head out, and raised her hand multiple times to get where she is today. If you want to sound more like Laine when you talk about your job, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Identify Your Values and Passions (Career-Related or Otherwise)

While she’s currently a recruiter at Booking.com, Laine started out as an account manager. She earned a promotion to take on a bigger market, but she soon realized that continuing on this path would mean relocating, maybe multiple times.

Laine loved where she lived in the Pacific Northwest. She’s also passionate about social issues, and thought she might like help shape Booking.com’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.

So she spoke up. “I wanted a bigger challenge and didn’t want to move to follow my role,” Laine says.

Step 2: Explore How to Follow Your Passions Where You Are

Laine decided to pursue a full-time CSR role. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen, but that didn’t stop her. Instead, she got creative and asked about project work she could help with. Within three weeks she landed a temporary stint on the CSR team and even travelled to Amsterdam, the company’s headquarters, multiple times as part of the deal.

She also gained the opportunity to make positive changes in the company that aligned with her values. She’s an active contributor to BookingCares, a CSR program which aims to make a constructive impact in Booking.com’s shared and loved destinations. And since then, her experience in CSR helped her co-create the company’s Women’s Empowerment Group, start local Lean-In chapters, launch a green initiative to make global offices more environmentally-friendly, and begin a mentorship program for North America.

Step 3: Decide If You’d Rather Do Something Else

It’s not a requirement that you put on blinders and steadily follow your current career path. Keep your eyes open for other types of work that may play to your strengths and that you’d enjoy. Laine started out as an account manager, but after wrapping up her temporary CSR role, she didn’t return to that path. She naturally leaned toward helping people make connections and find work they loved, so she pursued a new route as a recruiter.

Fortunately, Laine works for a company that encourages employees to follow their interests—even if means changing their roles.

“At Booking.com we have a bias toward insourcing, so I’ve seen many people change roles,” she says. “There’s a lot of opportunity to alter careers and change locations here.” She also points out that Booking.com believes in the power of curiosity and experimentation, so its employees can more easily embrace opportunities to explore and expand their experience.

Step 4: Determine if Your Current Company’s Culture Fits You

Do steps 1-3 sound plausible to you where you are? If they do, then you’re likely in a great spot. Work from there to go in the direction that will fulfill you.

If you’re feeling discouraged, though, because you want to take this advice but doubt you can at your current company, then maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

When researching other employers, look for companies that give their employees autonomy to follow their professional goals while integrating personal values. And explore whether companies are open to change. Laine says that Booking.com, for instance, thrives on change, empowers employees, and invests in their development. And the company’s leaders encourage employees at all levels to share their perspectives and continue learning and growing professionally.

So, do you know why you go to work every day? Do you believe in your role and the company you work for? If not, maybe it’s time to make some changes.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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