Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs and Your Career

Maslow's Hierarchy

When talking to people about their career and helping them understand what is important to them, I usually refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow proposed in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” that human needs can be described as basic needs building on more complex needs as the person develops. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of the innate curiosity of humans.

It usually helps people to visualize where they are right now in terms of career satisfaction and what it’s going to take to achieve the career success they see in friends and coworkers, but can’t seem to get for themselves.

What is important about this pyramid is it validates two things:

  1. Maslow makes it clear that it is human nature to want satisfying work – it is part of our needs.
  2. We can’t reach self-actualization if we don’t resolve our fear of failure.

Creating career success requires a deep belief we can be successful – together with a lot of positive activity. We don’t climb Maslow’s pyramid without confidence in our ability to reach the top and taking the correct action to get there.

So, I usually ask people:

  • What are you doing today to move yourself towards the top of Maslow’s pyramid?
  • How do you focus on moving up, instead of worrying about basic needs?
  • What resources do you use to help you when you doubts on the first two issues?

You should have your goals defined, and as Maslow has told you, those goals have to be difficult or nearly impossible to reach.

  • Build a plan, sometimes even a written plan, on what specific steps you have to take to get to that goal.
  • Work each and every day to achieving those individual steps that will move you in the direction of that overall goal.
  • Celebrate the successful steps that move you towards self actualization.
  • Make sure you have someone you can talk to when you run into barriers to arching your goal.

An example of an overall goal might be to become a Senior-Level Database Administrator at a major corporation. This a difficult goal to achieve and one that is difficult enough that it might take you entire career to realize, so it may qualify as self actualization. You can’t expect that to happen without understanding and completing specific steps to moving toward that goal. Once you understand those steps you have to start checking off a checklist of steps toward that goal, like studying about SQL Server, passing certification exams, finding your first job as a database professional, etc.

You must also not complete those items that would have a negative impact on you goals. Each decision you make, you need to ask yourself if you are moving closer or further away from your final goal.

You can read more about this here, here, and here.

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