What Does it Mean to have Career Work Orientation?

How to make the most of your work while being career oriented


Garrett Mintz , Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way for deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are: 
  • Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement.  
  • Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work. 
  • Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Career Oriented
As a Career-Oriented Professional
If you are a career oriented professional, it means you are motivated by learning new skills and getting promoted. In a work setting, it can feel frustrating and uninspiring when you don’t have a clear path that you are working towards or if you feel like you have been passed up for promotions or opportunities. When this happens, you need to take the matter into your own hands and advocate for yourself.
Advocating for yourself to your manager about your professional aspirations can seem daunting because you don’t know how your manager is going to react. But, for you to get the most enjoyment from your work, it is critical that you clearly communicate your goals to your boss in a respectful way (so they aren’t surprised when you share your goals with them) yet in a meaningful way (so they can start working with you on a plan for where you would like to go professionally).
To get you started, here is one way that you could ask your manager for a meeting like this. Once you set the meeting, you can use these questions and suggestions to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  •  Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I can share with you some of my professional goals and collaborate with you on how our team goals can align?
    •  This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your career goals. This helps you work towards your goals and helps you find ways to simultaneously align with the team goals. A good manager knows that for career-oriented people like you, these tough conversations are crucial to keeping you from feeling underappreciated, confused as to how you fit in with the team, and potentially wanting out of this role.
  •  What are some of our biggest team goals over the next year? How can I contribute in a positive way to help the team succeed?
  •  How do you see my position evolving over the next 6 months to a year?
  •  Who is somebody on our team (or another team you have worked on) that you feel did a great job of effectively rising through the ranks of the company by being a great team member? What did they do that helped them stand out?
  •  Some of my professional goals are {xyz}. I was wondering if you think it could be possible for me to work towards some of those goals over the next year? If so, which goals make the most sense for our team? If not, what do you think would be a realistic goal for me over the next year?
Managing a Career-Oriented Professional
Career-oriented professionals need to have a timeline that they can work towards. If you lead a career-oriented professional, ambiguity is your worst enemy.
“Great job!” and “I appreciate the hard work” only go so far with career-oriented professionals.
Eventually, they need to have some form of concrete outcome that they can work towards, or they will become disengaged and leave.
Therefore, it is critical that during discussions with this direct report, you should be considering their professional goals and help create a path for them to look forward to.
You may be thinking to yourself “I don’t have control over who gets promoted, how can I still provide a path?” The answer is that, regardless, you should create some form of roadmap for your people to look forward to that is within your control. For example, I have seen call centers provide different tiered titles to professionals based on their tenure and effectiveness like Customer Support Representative I, II, and III. Perhaps the pay is slightly higher, or unchanged, but the job title embodies the progress for that employee. What matters is that your career-oriented direct reports are very achievement-focused so having something to look forward to is vital to your effectiveness in leading them.
If you are still struggling with creating a roadmap for your career-oriented direct reports, the easiest way to start is brainstorming. Jot down all your ideas on how you might be able to create a roadmap for them and share those ideas with your boss. If your company is investing in you by providing you with AIM Insights for your team, more likely than not they are invested in helping you identify the best solutions for your direct reports.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your career-oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • In terms of your career, what would your ideal professional situation be in 10 years? (10 years is a good length of time because it’s distant enough to remove potentially troubling topics like switching companies or taking over someone’s role).
  • What are some experiences you would like to have while working with us?
  • Who do you know whose career path you would like to emulate? Could you elaborate on their career path and what they did?
  • {Share your ideas as to tasks they can work on and when and convey how those tasks helps them achieve their goals while also helps achieve team goals} After sharing some of those ideas with you, do you think those tasks would align with some of the professional goals you are working towards?
  • I would like to schedule another conversation with you in a month. Over the next month, I would like us both to brainstorm additional tasks you can work on that will help you achieve your professional goals and help our team achieve our team goals. Does that sound okay with you? (then put the date and time on the calendar for the next meeting!)


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