"If your job is not your mission, you are wasting your time"
“Find your mission”: at an interactive career workshop held at the WU Executive Academy, Doris Hofmeister, partner at Mercuri Urval Austria and an experienced executive search expert, shared insights on how to have a fulfilling career and a job that feels worthwhile doing and explained why it is so important to be really passionate about one’s job.
Doris Hofmeister kicks off her workshop “How to identify your personal next career step” with a clear-cut statement. “If your job is not your mission, you are wasting your time.” Wow, no sugarcoating here. You can hear the audience murmuring. Doris Hofmeister is not only a partner and director at the executive search and HR consulting company Mercuri Urval but also a mental and business coach. Today, she has come to the WU Executive Academy to speak to the about 40 MBA alumni and students who have joined her workshop with the subtitle “Find your mission.” She tells the group that Mercuri Urval pays little attention to hierarchies: when it comes to executive search and headhunting, it is always the whole person that counts. “We search for people with the right skill set and suitable personality around the globe. The question is: are you ready to work abroad and prove your flexibility?” This question is addressed to the audience, who is also encouraged to closely reflect on their capabilities: “Which skills do you already possess and which ones do you yet have to obtain?”
A round of introductions is the first task for the roughly 40 participants who have joined the workshop. It is a very mixed group with people hailing from all over the world and a wide range of industries: there are participants from the pharmaceutical industry in Slovenia, the automotive sectors in Romania and Mexico, and the aviation branch in Spain. Their reasons to come here are similar and diverse at the same time: Shankar, who is originally from India, works as a production manager in an Austrian manufacturing company. “I am thinking about my next career step – which country could I transfer to and how can I position myself as a brand,” he says. Helene from Germany is considering a move to her employer’s headquarters in Amsterdam. Lana from Bosnia is about to return to her job after a maternity leave. Doris Hofmeister asks them to form small groups and fully utilize the workshop’s networking potential. The “wheel of life” is the first practical exercise of the day. Participants are asked to mark in a pie chart how they currently spend their time and energy: work, family, leisure time, hobbies. As a next step, they draw their ideal allocation of resources, their optimum future pie. For some, this task realized in a matter of just a few minutes proves to be a real eye-opener.
Doris Hofmeister advises the participants to adopt a mental state of mind promising success, namely to imagine that they have already reached their goals. “Ask yourself: what are my goal and my mission? Is this really my own wish, or is it what others expect of me? Are there any areas in which I can further develop my personality?”
To realize a change, it is not always necessary to switch jobs or companies. “Ponder the following question: what can I change about my current situation? We can change things in our present jobs and actively create and incorporate what we are missing,” Doris Hofmeister explains. She mentions the example of a colleague who really wanted to work in coaching – a wish she did not keep to herself. “Today, she is the head of a coaching program in our company,” Doris Hofmeister reports about the outcome.
Elena’s story shows that some changes require a complete turnaround of your life. After graduating from an MBA program at the WU Executive Academy, Elena decided to quit her well-paying job as a marketing director. “I went back to square one. Suddenly, I had nothing to do in the mornings. No more urgent phone calls,” she tells her group. She studied interior design, founded her own business, and developed a marketing course for female freelancing designers. “I applied my experiences and skills to my new field of interest and was able to make money this way,” she says. Today, she also teaches at a design school in Milan and is involved in design thinking.
Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, is a passive participant at the workshop. “I love my job, but I also tend to listen to my gut feeling rather than taking the reasonable career path.” When she left a well-paying job in the private sector to return to university and start an academic career as a senior assistant professor, the reactions to her decision spoke a clear language: “Are you out of your mind? You are sacrificing a large paycheck.”
It is important to follow your heart and try new things. Completing a post-graduate program is not automatically an entry ticket to a new job. Professional reorientation also requires networking and the will to actively extend one’s options. 10 to 15 applications are not many at all. Sometimes it takes as many as 150 attempts.
Confidence in one’s own abilities is crucial. “Many people do not believe in themselves but rather listen to the critical voices around them,” Doris Hofmeister says. “Get rid of BS factors holding you back,” is her advice.
Anna, a key account manager, agrees. She wants to become a freelancing coach. She tells the others in her group: “You need people around you that encourage and push you, people who help you think big and do not stand in the way of your ambitious aspirations.” She tells them how she radically changed her environment and today only spends time with people who inspire her.
Another piece of advice is easier said than done: “Just do it. Pluck up courage and get started,” the expert says. And this is exactly what participant Johanna has done: she applied for a job in the energy company she was with that was two levels above her career stage at that time. “I had no clue whether it would work out, but I knew one thing for sure: I really wanted to do the job,” she recounts. Her motivation convinced her supervisors – who gave her the job.
When the participants disperse four hours later, their minds are filled to the brim with new inspiration. They all agree: they want to link up online and keep in touch. They have learned that the exchange with like-minded people can be a real career boost. And there is no doubt that the strong network of the WU Executive Academy is an essential asset when it comes to planning and taking the next step in one’s carrer.
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