Are you promotion or prevention focused when it comes to your career?

Photo credit: Pavel Ignatov, Shutterstock
Photo credit: Pavel Ignatov, Shutterstock

Many people are led by their desire to do what they love as a career. But in a post on Harvard Business Review, Heidi Grant Halvorson writes that we should think about careers that fit with what motivates us. By knowing our motivations and how we see our goals, she argues, we can determine how certain jobs would be a better fit for us as individuals.

Some of us tend to see our goals (at work and in life) as opportunities for advancement, achievement and rewards. We think about what we might gain if we are successful in reaching them. If you are someone who sees your goals this way, you have what’s called a promotion focus.

The rest of us see our goals as being about security—about not losing everything we’ve worked so hard for. When you are prevention-focused, you want to avoid danger, fulfill your responsibilities, and be someone people can count on. You want to keep things running smoothly.

Promotion-focused people do well with creativity, innovation, and taking risks, while prevention-focused folks are thorough, reliable, and plan well, the post continues. And this can help employees determine for which careers they are best suited.

Knowing your dominant focus, you can now evaluate how well-suited you are motivationally to different kinds of careers, or different positions in your organization. More than a decade of research shows that when people experience a fit between their own motivation and the way they work, they are not only more effective, but they also find their work more interesting and engaging, and value it more.

Are you prevention- or promotion-focused? How have you seen this play out in your career?

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