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Career Desires - What do you want, what do you really, really want?

In this sixth and final article in our series of 6 Signposts for new career ideas we look at the wonderful subject of Career Desires.

What do you want in your career?

From my experience of running career workshops and working with individuals, this question is not as easy to answer as it might first appear.

The first few responses are easy:

I just want a job that I enjoy and will use my skills’.

‘I want a reasonable work life balance’.

‘I want a boss who is supportive and easy to work with’.

'It's not about the money, I want a job that has purpose'

But we need to dig deeper than that. The more defined and refined our wish list is, the more chance we have of fulfilling it.

Below are four techniques that can help you do this.


When running The Career Conversations Experience , we get participants to start their conversation on career desires by looking at the cards below. Pick three that resonate most with you. There is also a blank card that you can use to add any other desires not included on the list.

Now describe in a few sentences why you picked each of these cards and how you would like more of this to show up in your ideal job.

e.g., “I would like to use my expertise more– I chose this card because professional expertise is something that is very important to me. I value a career that will allow me to continue with professional development, possibly through qualification, and to use that expertise on a daily basis.”

e.g., “I want to have a better location or living situation – I chose this card because my current work situation is very difficult for my young family. I have a long commute and it is impacting on my family life”

e.g., “I want to have more variety in my job – I chose this card because my current job is boring, and I need variety to keep me engaged and productive”

This is a great first start for getting you to think about what’s on your wish list for your ideal job. The next exercise is good for reflecting back and taking stock of your work experience to date.


Sometimes it’s easier to start with what we don’t want. Many of us feel stagnated and stuck in our careers because we are unhappy with the status quo. Something is not working at work.

So, try this exercise.

Take out a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. Label the top left-hand side of the page – THE DUMP BIN, and the top right-hand side of the page – the KEEP LIST

You can see where I am going with this.

Take time to review all the jobs that you have had to date and complete the list for all the things about that job you would ‘dump’ and those things that you would ‘keep’.





long commute, managing staff, too much screen time

large company with great training, got to use my skills, peer to peer projects, good salary, pleasant work environment


poor relationship with boss, workload overwhelming, not enough resources

fun team to work with, exposure to lots of departments, stretching work


poor location, not much variety in work, a bit boring

good work life balance, got to use my skills, interesting industry

It’s a great exercise for identifying trends and patterns in what works and doesn’t work for us. It’s also a good check list to ensure that we are not biased towards one particular part of a job which is not working for us. E.g., a poor relationship with a boss can overshadow everything else that is potentially good about a job.


This is my personal favourite. Grab yourself a cuppa, allow yourself some time, find a relaxing space and start writing your future history diary.

The concept of a ‘future history’ is a neat little idea from the world of career development and goal setting. As the name suggests, it’s about writing in past tense about a time in the future.

In our case – “A Day in the life”

Detail what a ‘great day at work’ would look like. Keep it in the first person and record it as you would in a diary or journal at the end of the day.


“Good day at work today. Working from home, I was able to drop the kids to school and get a morning walk in with the dog before logging on at 0930. Got great work done from 0930 until 1100 in advance of our meeting. Working on client proposals is something that I enjoy doing. I am good at it and feel that it utilises the best of my creative skills. The meeting at 1100 was tough but productive. So interesting to hear the views of different stakeholders in the company and encouraging to get a result at the end of the meeting. I worked through lunch today as I had agreed with my boss to leave early for an appointment. I had a zoom call with the client at 1500 to make final plans for the day ‘on site’ next Tuesday. Really looking forward to the on-site and hooking up with the team face to face. I am so much more productive at home, but the face to face is important. I needed to do some work in advance of my meeting with my boss tomorrow. I have asked for some more responsibility on project x but need help on the people management aspect to this project. I had blocked off 45 mins at 1530 just so I could work on the online learning module on this topic – so many great resources available for quick upskill. Professional development is so important to me……etc….”

A future history has a great way of bringing colour and subconscious desires to a career desire statement. The first time that I ever did this I recognised my need for ‘quiet time’ in my workday. The need to work on my own in a space of my own. Despite the fact that I had spent the first half of my career in open plan offices.


The deep dive might appeal to those of you who like a more structured approach to identifying career aspirations and find questions useful.

This exercise is taken directly from the job-hunting book– What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N Bolles. This was my first, and most valuable, career book. The book is centred on a self-inventory of seven key career aspirations.

It poses seven powerful questions that can help us bring clarity to these career aspirations.

1. Geography – where do you want to work?

Consider here where you ideally would like to live and work. Or would you like to live in one place and work in another? Think not just for now, but in 5 years’ time. Is your preference for a city centre location or a location in the suburbs? How important is the opportunity for remote working?

2. Skills – what do you want to do?

Specifically – what skills do you want to use? What are your key strengths and how do you want them to show up in your ideal job? Lots more on this in the previous blog Career strengths

3. Knowledge –what industry or field of knowledge most interests you?

Not sure how to answer this? Check out the earlier blog on Career Interests

4. Work Environment – what does the look and feel of your ideal work environment look like?

Would you prefer a large office or small office? Natural windows or artificial lighting? Is a view important? Open plan or spaces for quiet time?

5. People – who do you want to work with?

Think about the people that you want to work with. Do you thrive in a culture that is collaborative or competitive? Do you work best on your own, or enjoy being able to bounce ideas off others and make decisions together? Are you looking for a company that is ‘of your tribe’ or do you desire a company of size and diversity with colleagues from all aspects of life?

6. Salary – what is your ideal salary?

How much money is too much money? Not a trick question! Remember with higher salary comes higher responsibility. How much is enough to meet your financial commitments at a level that works for you?

7. Values – How does your ideal job fit with your values in life?

Think about your personal qualities and the things that make you uniquely you in your career. More on this in the earlier blog on Personal Qualities

It doesn’t matter in what order you answer these questions in your Deep Dive. Just start with the one that matters the most to you for now, or the ones that you find easiest to answer.


Of course, in the real world, we don’t always get what we want!

There will be constraints to having our ideal career right now. Lack of time, limited resources, insufficient experience, other commitments – to name but a few.

When it comes to career choice and next step planning, the point is not to tick all the boxes, but to tick as many as possible. You can only do this if you know the boxes! It takes time, but it’s time well spent.

And there are ALWAYS possibilities. This will be the subject of the next blog – due out next month.

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In the meantime, thanks for reading.


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