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  • Karen E. Osborne

Why Did You Choose Your Career?

What a great January question to ask yourself. Getting back in touch with your WHY can help propel you forward in 2021. Remembering why you love the work, why you work so hard, can lift your enthusiasm, productivity, and increase your success.

What's your why? How about the members of your

team? "If you're a leader, it's an important question to ask those who follow you. It will help you and those around you clarify what matters most to them professionally...and to take action," says Joe Garecht in this great article. I agree.

As a leader/manager, it's your responsibility to understand your team members, their motivations, aspirations, values, fears, weaknesses, and strengths. Questions around their WHY can help you start a strategic (productive and meaningful) conversation that leads to deeper understanding.

  1. Remind me how and why you chose (fill in the blank) as a career.

  2. Who in our business do you hold in high esteem? What are the qualities, skills, abilities, and behaviors you admire most?

  3. What do you like best about your current responsibilities? What do you like least? How might we, together, increase the aspects of the work that give you the most pleasure?

Perhaps you have a personal vision and/or mission statement. Have you shared it with your team? Have you asked your team member about theirs?

Once you have the conversation, you must do something with it. Reinforce the positives or enhance their current position, help them learn new skills or try out different responsibilities. You might invest in staff development or even help them leave for something that better meets their needs.

The same is true for you.

When I started out as a grant's writer for the City of Tarrytown, NY, I didn't know I was in a profession. I needed a job. It was near my home and the hours flexible. My husband worked long days and we had two small children. Career didn't enter my mind.

It wasn't until a few years later, when I attended a professional conference for higher education fundraisers, that I learned I was part of a noble profession, one that brought together "philanthropists of every giving ability, with faculty members who were educating the next leaders, inventors, and entrepreneurs, and together made magic" - to quote my supervisor at the time, Bill McGoldrick. That conference gave me my WHY.

Because my WHY was strong, I thrived. Promotions followed every few years.

Eighteen years later, I started my second profession - nonprofit consultant, trainer, and motivational speaker. I loved the work. I passionately believed (and still do) in the power and goodness of philanthropy, service, and nonprofits. I not only worked, but gave and volunteered, living my passion in all aspects of my life. My WHY burned bright.

Still giving and serving, twenty-two years later, I've embraced a new passion, a new WHY. I am a writer. I love saying that, writing it, thinking it about myself as a published author. I have stories to tell that I believe will entertain, get people talking and thinking, help and, perhaps, inspire readers.

Are you working at a profession you love? Does your WHY shine within you? Or, is it time to do things differently, or take on a new challenge?

I'd love to hear from you.

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