Finding your cause
In previous posts I wrote about what kind of pacing might you want in your work life, and what kinds of problems you'd prefer solving. Today I'm writing about the why you might choose to do what you do - a crucial part when you're making decisions on pursuing a career or pivoting from one to another.
Funny enough, I struggled to find my own cause for years because it was actually right under my nose (!) when I was working in/near academia as manager. It wasn't until I worked in a very different domain until I started to notice what my own raison d'être was. I was working for a no-kill animal services agency which runs many initiatives, one of them being a cat sanctuary - a retirement home for hundreds of cats that are deemed "unadoptable" for various reasons and would have been euthanized in other jurisdictions (as a cat person, I'm head over heels for that). As much as I believe in no-kill animal care, that cause wasn't mine.
I discovered my own cause only after coming back to academia and speaking to students (to me, they are bright minds who will do great things in the future) again: The way I can be most useful for society is to bring out the talent in other people and to connect said people so that they can collectively do great things out there. I went into servant leadership for that reason. It wasn't because I wanted to lead others - it was because I wanted to nurture (and then send out) leaders out into the wild so that they can make a positive impact on the world. And imagine if they did the same thing... the effect can be exponential. This notion pushes me to do better every day.
Do you have a cause you live for? How did you discover it (or build/nurture it)? Was it intuitive or unexpected? Or - are you currently searching? Did your cause change over time?
From what I've seen so far, when you go into a career it's usually about solving problems. So then if you know yourself in terms of what kinds of problems you like solving will help you figure out what kind of career you'd thrive in.
For example, I call myself a 'process optimizer'. The world is chaos, yet I still try to come up with ways to establish order (although rather Sisyphean). I thrive when there's processes where I can optimize through iteration:
Over the past several years, I learned that I may be a good firefighter (in the figurative sense) but it takes years off my life; can't do it for long. I can also build processes from scratch but it's not something I love doing because if the requirements are unclear, that will significantly reduce your success rate (<rant> people tend to misunderstand what "requirements" means. They jump to solutions which are not the requirements. </rant> It takes a LOT of patience and persistence to eke out those requirements, and I admit that I'm simply not patient enough).
What problems do you like solving?
I failed to write for the last few Saturdays because I had underestimated how much effort it takes to adjust to a new job (^__^;) Now that it has been over 1 month since I started, I can say that I have mostly adjusted.
One of the things I've been (re-)adjusting to is the speed in which things happen, and I am astounded by how different the pace of life is in an academic setting vs. a small not-for-profit-scaling-up setting.
In academia (especially in large institutions), things happen very slowly - some things happen over the course of weeks, other things take years. When I used to work in academia (2 jobs ago, as someone who had been running and managing visual analytics workshops) I found this process painful, but there were some things about that slowness that I now appreciate being back in academia:
I'm Candice and I doodle with the intensity of the doomguy.