Purpose first, then career: Asking Why?

Purpose first, then career:  Asking Why?

This morning as I sat down for breakfast I started to read through the careers booklet my 11 year old has been given from school.  It’s a great document with lots of great information in there and case studies.  It’s focused on finding out what things you want to do that might align with a career.

I got to page 10 and I reflected on my own ‘career’ choice.    How would the answer to this now be different to what I probably would have answered when I was 11?  Then I realized that they’re not even asking one of the most important questions – Why?

Some of the world’s top companies have reframed their strategic planning by asking WHY?  What is their purpose?  This question alone significantly opens up what they do and how they do it.  It removes the limitations of having to fit the ‘this is what we do’ statement.    

I recall watching Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk a few years ago.  https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action  Totally worth watching.  It explains why Apple, which had a purpose of ‘challenging the status quo’ as was free to move into telecommunications, entertainment and everything else they’re involved in.  

Looking at a case study they use in the booklet my son has there, is the one about Simon who has become a production manager for a food company.  His ‘career’ choice was spurred on by the intense dislike of the food his parents cooked him when he was 8 and the wise negotiation he made with them that he would eat anything he cooked.  (Love the spirit of the 8 year old Simon!).   Now I’ll conjecture to make a point.  Had he been asked to reflect on his ‘why’ or sense of purpose, it may have been ‘to ensure all kids eat good food they love to eat’, or to ‘change the way parents feed their kids’ …… and his career choice may have been the same but it may have been different.   He may have made career changes that provided him with a unique set of skills to enable him to work in that space of ‘meeting purpose’.  

I reflect on my own current work situation.  My ‘why’ is all around wanting to create positive social change in my community.    I get my geek on over economics, the art of business, (and spreadsheets …. Love a good spreadsheet).  My challenge was to apply what I am good at to my ‘why’.   I’ve been able to do this using my business development knowledge and applying it to the social change space in my ‘community’ which is not only West Auckland, but as a New Zealander my community includes our Pacific Island nation friends.   When I reflect back on what I’ve done in my ‘career’ I’ve moved through a number of different sectors, been involved in all kinds of different businesses, projects and initiatives.  All of them appear incredibly diverse and different on the surface, but my role and purpose behind them has been the same consistently.  I am applying my passion for the art of business to creative positive social change in my community.

So now my question is why aren’t we encouraging out kids to think about they’re ‘why’?  And teaching them how to work that out?  I’m suggesting that that would open up so many more doors for them, especially if they can make a living pursuing their purpose.    

I can see a family conference coming on and a little bit of ‘professional development’ around the dinner table coming up …… (oh yes …. Yes I do apply my business practice to raising the boys too …. Haven’t quite got to the stage of having to let any of them go due to a downturn in the economy …. But it’s been tempting!)




Posted: Wednesday 4 July 2018

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