Career Clarity

Gaining career clarity is a process that is important to ensure you make the right decisions,  however it is also ongoing as you and the world of work change and grow. There are several parts to gaining career clarity that we will explore.  We also touch on ways that you can fall into workplace traps that ultimately leave you unhappy.

What is happiness to me?

Tim Ragan and Paul Gibbons in their book (Re)Boot Your Career speak of flourishing as the target for career satisfaction, as opposed to the popular notion that following your “bliss” is the route to happiness. Flourishing requires; Spiritual Fulfillment, Engagement, Relationship Building and a sense of Achievement.

Critical to flourishing in your career is refraining to engage in “workplace traps”. These are behaviours that negatively affect your attitude in the workplace. Negative thinking can cloud your mind, distract you from achieving your goals and impede you from flourishing. Below is a short list of common workplace traps.

  • Complaining, which can feel therapeutic, can actually lead to a very negative outlook and earn you a negative reputation among your coworkers.
  • Gossiping is not a productive behavior and can cause a lot of tension. If you are having a serious problem with your coworkers or manager, it is best to politely bring it up with them in a tactful and honest manner.
  • Comparing yourself to others is an unproductive behaviour which tends to leave you feeling envious instead of motivated. This is not to say you shouldn’t look up to your mentors or leaders, however you should recognize that everyone is in a different place in life. Respecting where you are and your own process is the better approach.


Tim Ragan and Paul Gibbons discuss in (Re)Boot Your Career, that it is necessary to add dimensions to happiness. The following four dimensions are seen as important in creating an effective framework for personal happiness while on the job:

  • Spiritual fulfillment. This refers to the sense that our work matters and makes a difference on some scale.
  • Engagement. The intense feeling of absorption in your work. This notion is sometimes referred to as “flow”. Entering into this state can make time go by rapidly and is often accompanied by a great sense of productivity.
  • Relationship building. Professional and personal relationships drive us to achieve in our careers and life, so building and maintaining these relationships is vital for flourishing.
  • Achievement. Is obtained by setting clearly defined goals with realistic expectations, then working to eventually complete those goals. The three steps to achievement are: defining, working towards and then attaining clear goals.

What is a rewarding career?

Looking through job boards, pathway tools like Career Cruising, or having discussions with a career counsellor can make you feel overwhelmed about all the options out there.

Rather than looking at specific jobs at this point, it’s important to define what a rewarding career is to you, what kind of worker you are, and how you have defined happiness.

Perhaps you like participating in planning projects and activities, or you want to be involved in day-to-day tasks.  Maybe because of your work/life style you need to set your own schedule or need time away from work that a typical Monday to Friday schedule will not allow.

It is important to have a broad and long range sense of what your career goals are, so that wherever you work, you can have some sense that you are working for your direction rather than just putting in time. In this way, you will know if an opportunity is the right fit for you.

What is my work style?

Knowing your work style means you can be prepared to tackle the workplace in a way that is effective for you, and ultimately your employer. There are some specific things that you can start to identify in yourself, such as: working more independently or as a group, preference for creation or preference towards rote memorization, being in the spotlight or working “behind the scenes”.

Tim Ragan has developed a personality assessment which he has labelled the “PAVF Assessment” which can be helpful in identifying your overall personality traits as they relate to the workplace. The acronym PAVF stands for Producer, Analyzer, Visionary and Friend. These different broad categories can help identify what kind of thinker and worker you are.

  • A Producer fits most closely with a management role, which means this perspective takes a “what is being done” angle.
  • An Analyzer looks closely at the details, like how an account looks through all the financials at an organization.
  • A Visionary is a real “ideas” person who thinks in a very broad sense. This workstyle can be key to any organization or team that needs a directive to work towards.
  • The Friend fits closely with a liaison or diplomat. A friend is adept at working in a social network and can create close relationships with almost anyone with whom they come in contact.

Each of the PAVF work styles have their strengths and weaknesses, knowing where you lie on this spectrum can help you to identify where you can improve your strengths, and mitigate your weaknesses.

How do I describe myself?

Being able to succinctly describe yourself and your aspirations is one of the keys to writing a good resumé as well as speaking with confidence during an interview. Taking the time to honestly assess yourself will lead to a resumé and interview that reflect your character, flow naturally and not feel contrived.

When you can speak about yourself in an honest and transparent way, you come across as a genuine candidate to employers. This doesn’t guarantee that every employer will see you as an appropriate fit for the position, but it does mean that when they do, you won’t need to change yourself to fit in.

To begin this exercise, it is useful to think of things that you actually enjoy and do on a regular basis.

If you are in school, which classes do you enjoy the most? Which classes have been most useful? What kinds of activities most actively stimulate your learning, and what kind of course work do you easily excel in?

Looking at what leisure activities interest you and specifically why you enjoy them also helps you learn how to describe yourself.

What are my values?

Your values are core beliefs that guide many important decisions.  Things that go against your core values, even if they are small and not immediately significant, can add up and leave you feeling stressed and ultimately unhappy.

Going against your core values attacks your self-concept, resulting in self-doubt and a loss of confidence. Conversely, when actions do line up with your values you develop a stronger sense of confidence, joy, ease and accomplishment.

Ensuring long-term success starts with being able to define what is important to you.  By doing so, you will begin to see which careers and occupations you are most compatible with.

What is in my toolkit?

Your toolkit represents the totality of the skills and experiences that you have collected thus far. Your toolkit contains all of the skills, personality traits, and strengths that make up “you”.

It’s time to fully explore what, from your toolkit, you want to showcase. There is probably a lot more in there than you think. The difficult part is identifying the tools that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, there are lots of ways that playing video games can add to your toolkit. Perhaps it is a complicated team based game requiring lots of coordination. Playing well might mean that you have to know, interpret and apply the rules in a creative and advantageous way to put yourself in a winning position.

Take a look at ALL of your tools

People tend to speak to the tools that are most frequently used, thus at the top of their toolkit. Here we want to emphasize the importance of digging deep into your toolkit, so that you can speak to all of your tools, no matter how dusty they may be.