Re-Invent or Re-Define?

Magnifying glass on the word Redefine and related terms such as revise, redo, revisit, review, reposition, rethink, reconsider, reinvent, remodel and reevaluate

We frequently hear about career transitions. Ideally, this would happen when a deliberate change is orchestrated in one’s career path. However, if we took a closer look at these so-called career transitions, are these really deliberated, or chanced?

Growing up, our values and education taught us that having a “good” career is the “right” thing to do. In our pursuit on “doing the right thing” and looking out for a “good career”, we become oblivious to the fact that both of these are rather symbolic. The “right” thing is subjective and relative to a person’s experience, culture and values. Similarly, the definition of a “good” career leaves much room for debate on what one individual would qualify as “good”. Which may not be “good” in the opinion of another individual.

In fact, career development is a very deliberated process, and should be very personalized at the onset. Some may argue that this is unattainable idealism – since part of the career development dynamics is in fact beyond our direct control – afflicted by factors such as market competition, economic conditions, legislations, and technology advancement.

We often forget, our career is about ourselves. It IS very personal. The outcome of what we do may serve a purpose for the community. But our career consequence is not a public good, nor societal economic product. Neither should it be a communal trophy.

In my opinion, I view careers as our personal inventions, whereby the inventor or creator, would be ourselves. We invent, and define our careers, through a magical formula of four components. These four determinants to our career development paths, which are very fundamental and personal to each individual, are:

  • Our values
  • Our strengths
  • Our passion
  • Our goals

Our answers to each of these determinants, are very different from each other’s. And our answers to each of these determinants will remain dynamic, throughout our life-span, affected by our life experiences and our specific needs at that point in time.

According to the theory of subjective well-being, each one of us will have different levels of needs at differing points in time. The satisfaction we attain through our career achievements is only a part of our life-long self-actualization pursuit. As such, it makes sense, to take charge of one’s career transitions, and not leave these to chance. The decision between career re-invention, or career re-definition, will thus fall back upon your answers to the 4 determinants, at that particular point in time, of your life.

When our goals have materially changed, as so have our passions, and what we have been considering as a meaningful career may become lack-lustre. This would be a good point to go through the process of career re-invention.

When economic conditions, get really tough and affect what we have always very much enjoyed doing, such that the level of fulfilment is no longer present in the role we fill, this would be a good point to go through the process of career re-invention.

These are simply be additional pit-stops we take in life, where we would pull out our cards written with our answers to the four determinants from previously, and re-evaluating our answers to the four determinants based upon our present experiences and life situations.

As we grow through life, we expand upon our repertoire of strengths and attributes. When the stage of our career development does not match up with the development of our strengths and attributes, we will experience frustration and negative well-being. These is a point where a career re-definition will be timely. We re-assess our strengths, and re-think our goals, matching these with our needs, at that specific point in time of our lives.

Thus, career transitions are never by chance. They are very deliberated, orchestrated, and personalized events within our lives.

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