A Career Changer's Checklist - 12 Common Sense Questions to Find Your Career: Who Do You Want to Do This With? (Community)
- Top 10 Questions to Help You Define Who You Want To Work With
- Top 5 Strategies for Finding Your Ideal Work Community
Okay. Here we are at Question 7 in this series of career-oriented diagnostic questions titled the Career Changer's Checklist.
So far on this diagnostic journey you have dealt with what you want and like to do, what you know how to do, what you can afford to do, what is holding you back, and where you want to do what you want on this career journey.
You have taken good notes on your ideas and reflections. At this point, you have a pretty good idea what direction you want your career to go in. This direction is based on the answers you provided to the previous questions.
Now you have to get down to the nuts and bolts. Who do you want to work with? Who do you want to work with you? To answer these you also have to consider who you are as a person and a fellow worker.
Remember the adage It's not what you know, but who you know. That is so true when you want to change jobs, change careers, or are simply looking for a job. Who you know and who you want to work with, or are willing to work with, can be just as important in the decision process as location and finances.
Think about it! You could be making a ton of money in the new career, but have to work with people you cannot stand. You would be rich and miserable.
Remember this from the earlier articles: The goal is to be happy at your new career and financially as comfortable as you want. Money is not everything. Your peers, your network, and your community are critical to making a job attractive.
Additionally, when you're looking to find a good job or change careers, you might need those in your network, friends, classmates, elders, or your neighbors to put a good word in for you or recommend you to land the job.
You might be having a difficult time even finding a job/career. And only when someone you know, by happenstance, makes a suggestion do you actually launch that new career.
Remember what one of my old bosses taught me: "Two are more than one." Simple but so true. You need people in your network. And if you don't think you have a network, think again. As John Donne wrote, "No man is an island."
So the people you surround yourself with and work with are critical in this career diagnosis. You have to face a number of questions that will help you confront your feelings about the people you will work with, will work for you, or will help you find the new career.
What personality traits are important to you for your coworkers—those in your personal network? What are your personality traits?
The key, the central thesis of this article and this series of questions is the following: You want to be with the people you want to work with!!! If you do not want to be with them for hours on end, the workday and the work environment will be miserable and you will hate your job.
This article focuses on the top 10 questions that help you define who you want to work with. There will be a number of ancillary questions. But if you answer them honestly and record your answers in your Word doc, you will have a fantastic idea what the ideal work environment will be in your new career.
The top 5 strategies for finding your ideal work community are then discussed.
This is often the most difficult set of questions to answer for a career changer, no matter what sector you are interested in. Can you really choose who you will work with? You sure can. Maybe that is the reason why you are changing careers!
I ended my tenure with one employer because I did not like the work culture and the way people were treated—me included. This employer would never say good morning to the employees. After a short stay when I resigned, I was told he would never hire another person like me. Why? Because he wanted the employees to fear him. I did not. I would say Good Morning and he did not like that. It was awful and I learned from the experience to always find out who I wanted to work with.
Put on your thinking caps, you are getting ready to take on a difficult mission. Your job, if you decide to take this mission Mr./Mrs. Phelps, is to figure out who you want to work with. Good luck!
Top 10 Questions to Help You Define Who You Want To Work With
Everyone needs to work with someone else. We are social creatures, even if we want to work alone. Think about all the people who die shortly after they retire. Their jobs, and the coworkers at those jobs, helped to give their lives meaning and purpose. When that meaning and purpose ended, their lives in a sense ended.
The same holds true for the elderly, even those who are homemakers or stay-at-home parents. The jobs we do at home give us purpose and meaning. When that purpose and meaning are gone, our direction and identity often leave. Depression can set in.
Many laugh at this, but we as a people need community at home and at work. Those we work with, those in our networks are our community.
Now for the questions that will help you define who will be in your community. They will help to make the workplace enjoyable and might even help to give your life meaning and purpose.
Bet you never thought of your coworkers as contributing that much to your life. But they do.
So who are they?
- Who do you want to work with?
This is where we begin. There are all sorts of people who make up our world. Not all types are in our immediate geographical area, but there are enough types of people to make life interesting.
Be honest. You are not comfortable being around some folks. I know that there are some people I like to work with and others I dread working with. So who are they?
To answer this question you first have to look in the mirror and ask the hundred-million-dollar question that some recruiters and employers now ask: Who are you? What kind of person are you? Are you an introvert, an extrovert, a person with a Type "A" personality, or someone who is considered laid back? Are you driven or will you go with the flow? Do you strive for excellence or are you comfortable just putting your time in on the job?
What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to work? (I love this question when an employer asks it. I always have to honestly say that I hate office politics and will do whatever it takes to avoid it. That confuses so many people—as if they don't know what office or corporate politics is. That is my weakness.)
What are your weaknesses and strengths? Be honest. You have at least one of each.
Once you confront who you are, you will be half-way home to answering this question. Now who do you prefer to work with?
Here are some examples of people you might want to work with:
- Venture capitalists: those who can help you get your business off of the ground. Some of you want to go into business for yourself. In those cases you will be working with people you hire, people who are partners, and people who are investors as well as your customers.
- Family: some folks start out working with one or more members of their family. This is a great starting place. I started out working with my dad. I learned not only a lot of skills but also a lot about how to treat customers and take pride in your work. If you want to start a business, you might want to go into business with members of your family. Is that a possibility for you?
- Friends: working with them can be a bit dicey. But it can also be great. Do you want to work with those you socialize with? It can jeopardize the relationship, but could also be the key to success.
Another way to address this question is to ask you whether you prefer to work with a certain type of person. For example:
- Do you prefer egotists or the humble?
- Do you prefer working with adults or children?
- Do you prefer working with a given age group?
- Do you prefer working with friends, strangers, or family?
- Do you prefer working with others or by yourself?
- Do you prefer working with professionals or nonprofessionals?
- Do you prefer working with a large group or a small team?
- Do you prefer working with men or women, or both?
- Do you prefer working with people from your own culture or diverse cultures?
- Do you prefer working with people from your own ethnicity or diverse ethnicities?
- Do you prefer working with people who are team-oriented or those who are driven by their own need to succeed?
- Do you prefer working with politically motivated people or those who are not politically motivated?
- Do you prefer to work with academically educated people or those who have been educated by the world?
Based on your responses to these questions you now have an initial idea of who you want to work with. But you also have to consider who you trust. You will find that those you want to work with or those who will work for you are those you trust. Never underestimate the value of trust when it comes to considering whether you will work well with another person.
I can say without reservation that one of the best jobs I have ever had was working for a hospital in New York. I loved the work, but I loved the job more than any others I have had because of the people I worked with. I was surrounded by great people who came from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Every socio-economic level and academic level was there, and I interacted with every one of them.
What made them great? I felt I could trust every one of them. That is a remarkable statement. And every job and career opportunity that I consider now is measured against this standard.
Now I am looking for a great group of people whom I can trust like I trusted those that I worked with at the hospital. Will I find an opportunity like I had? I don't know, but I know that the ideal exists. And that gives me hope.
So who do you want to work with? Write down your thoughts and responses in your Word doc.
- Why do you want to work with them?
Now that you have an idea about who you want to work with, you need to answer why you want to work with them. Is it because you trust them? Or is there another reason? What do you like and dislike about the people you will work with? Don't just think about why you like them but also why you do not.
This is a very difficult question to answer because you have to judge other people by your own personal standards, which might not be the most accurate. But it is your judgment that is the determining factor.
Some of the reasons why you might like a group of people you work with are as follows:
- They make a comfortable environment.
- You all complement each other.
- You bring the best out in each other.
- You learn from each other.
- You make a good team.
No matter how good it can be working with others, some folks simply want to work alone. I fluctuate back and forth. There are times when I can be most productive working by myself and other times when I absolutely need to work with a trusted group of coworkers.
I have long wanted to open up my own training center with two or three classrooms that have a solid philosophy of training and education. It would not be built around the profit margin, but around the student's education.
Every time I revisit the idea, I realize that I can't do it alone. I can't teach in three classrooms simultaneously, answer the phones, do the marketing, run the office, pay the bills, register new students, schedule classes, maintain the equipment, keep the facilities up...all by myself. I need good professional people I can trust, who enjoy this kind of work, and who I can collaborate with. That is why I have not taken the leap. Finding professionals with those traits is difficult in a limited geographical area. So although I could do all of these jobs myself, I can't do them alone. I know who I work well with and why I work well with them. But finding them is tough.
So do you know why you want to work with a group of people? Why do you like them? Do you know why you don't want to work with some folks? Write down your reasons why you like some, why you don't like others, and why you like to work with some yet don't like to work with others.
- When do you want to work with them?
Knowing who you want to work with and why is very important. But so is the knowledge of when you want to work with this group of people. As we get older, we change and our opinions change. You might desperately want to work with children when you are in your 20s and 30s, but when you turn 40 you find that you no longer want to work with children.
In my 20s and 30s I wanted to work with those in the trades. I had a lot of admiration for them and wanted to learn from them. A lot of that came from working with my dad. But as I grew older, I realized I couldn't do what these very talented people could do. Additionally, after my father died (I was 40) I began to lose interest in working in the trades.
Shortly after my dad died, I got heavily involved in computers and computer networks. Now I love working with adult students who want to learn about computers and networks.
But the times they are a'-changin' and what used to be special knowledge is now rather fundamental. Most elementary school children know more about computers and networks than their adult mentors do. So as much as I love teaching technology to adults, I find that the landscape is changing, and I have to change with it.
I'm now trying to discover what the next career wave will be. And who I will work with. So knowing who you like to work with and why is heavily dependent on what time of life you are in. Your responses will change. Be ready to embrace the change. What is your answer now, at your present time of life?
- Where do you want to work with them?
Now if you know when you want to work with a group of folks, you also have to consider where those people are. Where do you want to work with them? Consider the following three ancillary questions:
- Where is this group geographically?
- Where is this group organizationally?
- In which sector is this group?
Let's look at each of these questions in more detail.
In order for you to work with a desired group of coworkers you might have to reside in a specific area. For example, to work with the IT gurus of Silicon Valley, you'll probably have to relocate to northern California. If you want to work with Microsoft at its corporate office, you'll have to move to Washington. If you want to do Broadway theater, you'll have to relocate to New York City.
If you want to work with those in politics on the national level in the United States, you probably have to be in the Washington DC area, which is where political organizations are located. Some organizations have a central location, whereas others have several locations scattered around the globe.
So where is the group that you want to work with located? Do you have to relocate to have the opportunity?
When you ask about the location of people you want to work with, you also have to be clear about which sector you want to work in. Which sector are you interested in? This helps to define where you have to be so you can work with the right group of people.
Are you interested in any of the following?
- Financial sector
- Real estate
- Business sector
- Corporate America
- Training sector
- For profit
- Not for profit
- Nursing homes
Based on knowing where you want to work so you can be with the folks you want to work with, where the organization center is, and which sector you want to work in, you can now write down where you should focus your attention in your career search.
You should have noticed that some of the sectors are present in almost every community. So if you are interested in healthcare, for example, you can work anywhere in the United States. If you only want to work in teaching hospitals, however, you then have to consider relocating so that you can work with the professionals in one of these centers.
If you want to work in education, you can work anywhere in the country. But if you want to teach at an Ivy League university you have to consider moving to New England for the best opportunities.
So where are the people you want to work with? Write down your answer.
- How do you want to work: as a supervisor or as an employee?
This is an easy question to ask and answer. You know who, why, when, and where, but how do you want to work with your ideal community of workers?
How do you want to relate to them? Do you want to be a follower, a team player, a leader, a supervisor, a boss, or an owner? What is your ideal role in relationship to those you want to work with?
A good friend of mine from years ago used to respond to the question of what he wanted to do this way: "I want to be boss."
Some people do not want the responsibility of leading, while others thrive on responsibility. Some are born leaders; others are born workers and contributors.
I really love both roles. I love to lead when the opportunity arises and if I am asked to lead. Otherwise, I love to follow an inspired leader—someone who has a vision and a philosophy for meeting an objective. I cannot stand following someone who has no clue of how to meet an objective and whose only goal is self-aggrandizement.
I was at a conference of educators about 14 years ago. As part of the let's-get-to-know-each-other portion of the agenda on the first day, each participant was seated with seven strangers, for a total of eight strangers at a table. We each had name tags, but that was all we knew about each other. Each table was given an assortment of non-related items and a limited time to create an object that addressed some elementary need. For the most part it was a simple task.
The point was to have the eight strangers at a table become a cohesive team and create an object in the shortest period of time. It was awful.
When the time to begin was announced, seven folks at my table all spoke at the same time, trying to be the table leader. The goal was to gain the power. No one listened to what the others were saying. No one took the time to think about the goal or the process.
I sat back and watched the dynamic for close to 10 minutes and said nothing until one of the strangers asked me if I had any ideas because I was the only quiet one. Well, I did. I had taken the time to look at the non-related items and the objective. And I had a very simple idea (which was the idea that was adopted and presented). I wasn't trying to become leader. All I wanted to do was get through the morning and go to lunch. I didn't like this group of people, but I had to work with them for a finite period of time. So I made the best of it and ended up as the leader.
To be a good leader, sometimes you have to listen to what everyone is saying. Sometimes the ideas are good, and sometimes they are garbage. A good leader doesn't have the loudest voice; it's the one who can make a team out of strangers.
Do you want to lead your group or follow? What role fits you? Write it down.
- Who have you worked with?
You are considering who you want to work with and why. To get a complete picture of who makes up your ideal community of coworkers you have to look at your past. You have to ask who you have worked with, associated with, socialized with, spent time with, vacationed with, and collaborated with. No matter how hard you try, you cannot escape your past. And your past speaks volumes about your present and your future.
So if you want to know who you want to work with, look back at the successful relationships you have had and try to formulate the reasons why those relationships worked for you.
Look at your family and friends. Look at those in your neighborhood, your church, and your community. What makes this group of people appeal to you? What characteristics and traits make them people you want to work with and be around?
Earlier this year during a difficult time, I had a conversation with someone very important to me—my mother. She was a few months away from passing away. I always had a phenomenal relationship with her and my dad. I took care of both of them up to the time of their passing. While we were talking one day, she asked me a completely unrelated question. And a light came on.
It was a complete epiphany. At that moment in time, which I will never forget, I realized who I liked being around and working with. I realized why I could work so easily with my parents and the folks at previous jobs for whom I had endless respect. All the dots were connected.
I came to understand that my community is made up of people who I can talk with, listen to, and make mistakes with. The people I love to work with do not judge me or talk down to me. Instead, we can discuss matters, whether we agree or not, with honesty and openness. We learn from each other, and we can argue about issues without taking it personally. And most of all we can laugh about anything. Those who listen, learn, and laugh are the ones I have worked well with.
What about you? Who have you worked with and why have those relationships worked (or not)? What do those relationships say about who you will work well with now and in the future? Write it down.
- What do others say about you and your work?
So knowing who you have worked well with is a great start to self-understanding, but you also have to step back and honestly ask what do you say about others and what do others say about you?
Remember that there are three truths: your version of the truth, what others perceive as the truth, and the real truth (somewhere in the middle). The same is true about perception when it comes to working with others.
You might perceive that you have a great collaborative relationship with others, while they might think you're a snob or a deadbeat. And where this gets really nasty is when gossip enters into the mix. Step back and ask yourself what you have said about others and what you think others have said about you.
Do others like working for you or with you? Do others like you working for them or with them? Are you difficult to work with?
What have your previous evaluations been? What have your recommendations been like, and how ready are you to recommend a coworker? A former boss of mine gave me a yearly evaluation that I will never forget. We became good friends, but he made me so mad when he gave me the following yearly evaluation. For all job skills I was given a satisfactory rating. But in his comments he added the following: "Warren is better than those who are worse than him." Think about it. It made me nuts until I sat down and realized the truth in the statement. He was not being insulting or making a joke. He was speaking the truth from his perspective, and we had known each other for close to 10 years at that point. He was paying me a back-handed compliment. And we laughed about it every time we spoke. I use the same comment today when I have people working for me. And we get a big laugh. Why? It is so true.
Write down what others have said about their experience while working with you. What does it say about who you work well with?
- Who values what you can contribute?
When you're looking for your ideal community, you have to ask who will value what you can contribute. Not everyone will see your skills, education, talents, and personality as being valuable to their cause or business.
So who will value what you offer? This is an especially tough question when you are over 50 years old in the United States and looking for a career change, or if you are in your early 20s and looking to get your initial break in the job market. Those over 50 are viewed as having too much experience and being "overqualified"; those in their early 20s are viewed as having no marketable skills.
You have to find the right group of people and the right market who will value what you bring to the table. If you are in your early 20s you have to emphasize your knowledge and what you are willing to learn and do to contribute. When you are in your 50s you have to emphasize what you can bring to the group to make it more prosperous than it was before you arrived.
It takes a special group of people to recognize what you bring. And those that value you will embrace you and want to work with you.
So who do you think will value what you can contribute? What group of people? What business sector?
- Who do you not want to work with?
We started off this series of questions asking who you wanted to work with and why. You also have to ask who you absolutely do not want to work with and why. All the questions I have posed can be asked using the negative voice.
You see, you might have a vision of the ideal group to work with, but unless you know who you would not like to work with, you will not be in clear touch with reality.
From this question you also come to realize that you are not perfect and that some folks would not like to work with you. The question then becomes why would someone not want to work with you?
Write down your responses. They are very important.
- What do you want from your coworkers and what are you willing to give?
The final question comes down to what you want from this working relationship. And what do others want from you? Are you willing to mutually contribute to each others' performance on the job? Are you all willing to assist each other? What can you learn from each other? Are you looking to climb a ladder, or are they looking to use you to advance their business?
When I look at a group, a team of people who interview me for a position, I am looking to see whether I can trust them, if they have passion for the job, if there is a strong air of politics, and if I think I can contribute to what they're doing. I want this same group of people to see that I have something to contribute to their business model, that I am easy to work with, that I am apolitical, and that I am willing to learn the skills needed to contribute.
So what do you want from your coworkers and what are you willing to contribute? Write down your responses.