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Corey Martin
Corey Martin

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Find your motivator, and use it to guide your career

We can make better decisions in our careers by figuring out what motivates us. This post will help you find your motivator, a phrase that sums up what drives you. Use it to focus your work, look for new opportunities, and inspire your writing.

This process helped me figure out what I want in my career, and I hope it's helpful to you!

Step 1: List your meaningful experiences

Finding your motivator starts with reflecting on your past experiences. To do this, use a piece of paper or your editing tool of choice.

  1. Make a list of every job you’ve had, including day jobs, side projects, school projects, and volunteer work.
  2. Under each job, list the experiences that were meaningful to you. Include what you did and the impact.

Here are some prompts you can use to think of meaningful experiences:

  • What did you get a rush out of working on?
  • What left a positive imprint on your mind?
  • What do you wish you could do again?

Meaning isn’t about what impressed others or furthered your career. It’s about what meant the most to you.

This was one of my meaningful experiences:

Revamped the Human Rights Report website, helping advocates do their work

Step 2: Find your threads

Identify common threads among your experiences. This is the start of turning your memories into your motivator.

  1. Look for meaningful experiences that are similar, and group them together
  2. For each group, write a brief phrase (the thread) that sums up the group

Some threads reflect what you did:

Build workflow tools

Other threads reflect the impact you had:

Help people do their work better

Come up with as many threads as you can, using most of the meaningful experiences you wrote.

I had three threads:

  1. Helping people express their knowledge and impact other people with it
  2. Helping people produce and share their work
  3. Building repeatable tools that help people work

Although I’m a software developer, none of my threads are very technical. Try not to make assumptions about what you should find meaningful. Stay true to what resonates with you.

Step 3: Rank your threads

By this point, you’ll have at least a few threads. Now you'll rank them.

  1. Order your threads, starting with the most meaningful

When deciding on the order, think about seeing a job with the thread in its job description. Would you want to take the job? Would it bring you meaning?

Step 4: Find your motivator

Combine your ranked threads into a single phrase, your motivator.

  1. Find a single phrase that captures your threads, particularly the top-ranked ones. This is your motivator.
  2. Write down your motivator, share it if if you’d like, and put it to work!

Threads are the building blocks for your motivator. Your motivator takes the gist of your threads and sums it up in a few words.

Your motivator should be:

  • No more than one sentence
  • Easy to understand
  • Something that brings you happiness
  • Something you want to do in the future
  • Something that you can take with you as you grow, not specific to one stage in your career
  • Something you can talk about with others or write about

My threads deal with helping people produce and share. My motivator should capture that I like enabling people, and cover what I’m enabling them to do.

So, I chose my motivator: helping people create.

Step 5: Put your motivator to work

Your motivator may be short, but it’s powerful because of the work you put in to find it.

Use your motivator to help:

  • Advance in your current job. Talk with your manager, and find ways to focus on projects that align with your motivator. Find work that aligns with your motivator and helps your team succeed.
  • Filter job opportunities. Look for companies and jobs that focus on your motivator. Going into a new job knowing it aligns to what motivates you will help you hit the ground running.
  • Write. It’s easier to write about what motivates you, so draft some blog posts! Your passion for the topic will shine through.
  • Interview better. Most job interviews are a series of stories about ourselves. Find stories that align to your motivator. When you tell stories that excite you, you'll come across as authentic and driven.

Your motivator gets to the core of what drives you. The more you can align to it, the more meaning you’ll derive from your everyday work.

Share your motivator in the comments to inspire others!

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