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Fit With Work


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"My current work is well-suited to the things I care about" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Most people want their work to reflect at least part of what is important to them in life, but this changes as we age - so the capacity of our work to deliver what we want will likely change too. Reviewing what you want at present and in what ways your current work is delivering it (or could deliver it with a tweak) is an important step in considering your future.

Going deeper

High fit with work is typically underpinned by a number of things, in particular:

- I have the right skills for my kind of work
- My work gives me a sense of purpose
- I find the work I do rewarding
- The work I do reflects my values

‍Which of these are true for you? Which might bemissing? What could you do about it? 

See the toolkit below on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track:

I have the right skills for my kind of work  

Three decades of intense research into human motivation shows mastery of a skill is important to feeling a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. Put simply - if you are great at your work, you are more likely to feel fulfilled because you can offer something of use and value to others.  If you are not confident that you have the right skill set, is it because: 

1.   You are new to the work and are still developing the skills. If so, make sure you have a clear plan to get you closer to mastery.

2.   You have assessed yourself too harshly, you probably do have the skill, but the confidence is missing.  If so, you might want to reflect on this to see if it’s a broader pattern of lacking confidence.  See our toolkit on ‘limiting beliefs’ for more information.

3.   You still have some key areas to develop, perhaps because the training isn’t readily available, you’ve put it off, or the requirements of the work keep evolving.  If so, it helps to be proactive.  What skills or knowledge do you want to develop? How can you do this? What do you need from your organisation or manager? What can you do yourself? See our toolkits on ‘conversations with my manager’ and ‘agile learning’ for more information.

My work gives me a sense of purpose / I find the work I do rewarding  

A sense of purpose in your work has been shown to be an important driver of satisfaction, and it’s very personal – each of us will find purpose and reward in different places.  If you are unsure about this for your work, then you could ask yourself the following questions:  

1.   Does it matter to you?  Purpose/reward/passion – these are all fairly ‘high bar’ items.  There is nothing wrong with getting to a place in life where you can comfortably check in and check out of a job, go home and enjoy time with family and friends.  Purpose and reward are strongly linked to satisfaction but, if your role is meeting all your other needs, then you may feel it is perfectly OK to do a good job and leave your work at the door, potentially giving you time and space to find your purpose elsewhere.

2.   Do you have the capacity to put in more energy? Feeling a sense of purpose or reward is related to the effort and skill you put in. They are feelings you earn – they are not ‘found’.  Put simply, if you do not care about and don’t put effort into what you do, you will struggle to feel a greater sense of reward.

3.   Can you reframe it? The famous story goes that the cleaner sweeping the corridors at NASA saw their role as helping put people on the moon.  Maybe you don’t see the obvious link between your role and the meaning and value it gives others.  Is there anyone who can help you view your role differently?  Who benefits from what you do?        

The work I do reflects my values  

If your immediate reaction to this statement is that your work does not reflect your values, this may be a problem which needs to be resolved.   Your work values reflect the things you care about. They cover a broad range of things from how much trust/autonomy you feel you have to more basic needs like a feeling of job security or how challenged you feel by your work, and of course whether you consider the wider purposes to which your work contributes to be appropriate.     

‍‍A first step in addressing this is to gain greaterclarity on your values.  This helps youto reflect on what is important to you, in order to try to understand what ismissing currently from your work, and what (if anything) you want to do aboutit. For more information, see thetoolkit on ‘understanding my values'.



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'Through my current work I have a positive impact on others' - you scored X on this question

Why do we ask this?

Research shows that an important contributor to motivation and satisfaction at work for many people (especially in mid and late career) is knowing that others benefit from what they do and ideally having a connection with those beneficiaries. The benefits to others of what you do may be immediate and personal, or more general and slow-burning. It is valuable to review how others benefit from what you currently do, and whether that is what you want.

Going deeper:

A number of things are likely to underpin your sense of contribution, in particular:

- I can identify how my work contributes to making the world a better place
- I see the people who benefit from my work
- People are better off, materially and/or in their well-being, as a result of my work
- Others tell me I have a positive impact on them via my work.  

Which of these are true for you? Which might be missing? What could you do about it? 

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.

I can identify how my work contributes to making the world a better place 

It’s great to feel that your work is making a contribution in this way. However, lots of people feel that their work is ‘neutral’ on this, whilst some people struggle with feeling that their work is in the negative space, making the world a worse place. There can be lots of reasons for not feeling that your work contributes to making the world a better place, and it helps to understand the reason so you can choose what to do about it (if anything). Here are some possible reasons:

- The work has changed from the job you took originally.  The organisation, people or role may have changed fundamentally from the job you took so it no longer seems to be making the world a better place. 
- You’ve changed. The role met different needs when you started to where you are now. It might be your values have changed, in which case you might want to explore the toolkit on ‘understanding my values’ to get greater clarity on what matters to you.
- Your work may contribute, but you’ve not really asked this question to find out how it makes a difference.
- You haven’t changed and the role hasn’t changed but this doesn’t really bother you.   

Whatever the reason, if you want to explore this, it can be helpful to ask yourself:

- On a scale of 1-10, how much does my work contribute to making the world a better place? (1 is very negative, 10 is very positive, 5 or 6 is neither better nor worse)
- How much does this matter to me?
- Can I find out more about how my work contributes?
- If this matters to me, what could I do about it?

-  I never see the people who benefit from my work
- People are better off, materially and/or in their well-being, as a result of my work
- Others tell me I have a positive impact on them via my work.

The tendency is, as you get older, you typically get more senior. Operating at a more senior/management or strategic level can remove you from direct contact with those you are benefitting. This can make you feel more peripheral, just at a time when many older workers become more focused on making a worthwhile contribution. If this is something that you would like to increase, then it can be helpful to reflect on the following questions and possible actions:

- How well do I use my existing work opportunities to help others? Many roles have more opportunities than we currently use.  For example, if you are a line manager, you have a huge opportunity to benefit those in your team by coaching, developing and guiding them to thrive at work.  If you have particular knowledge or experience, you could take on a mentoring role.  If your organisation has charity partners, you could take an active role here.  Alternatively, you might see an opportunity to drive positive change through involvement in an organisation-wide activity (such as a well-being or allyship programme).

- Whilst your team or organisation might be doing something you consider valuable, perhaps you are in a role which is peripheral to the team or organisation mission, and you feel that you are personally not benefitting anyone much. This might be a cue to ask your colleagues what they think you contribute to the achievement of team or organisation objectives. They might see it more clearly than you do. You might also talk to your line manager about whether your role could be tweaked to include some more mainstream elements.

- Could you satisfy this desire outside of your current work? Most of the things that are the most rewarding experiences do not have a direct relationship with being paid. People often report feeling ‘financially trapped’ as the reason they can’t engage with things which give them a greater sense of meaning.  Voluntary work is a route taken by lots of people to satisfy their desire for greater impact.  See our toolkit on volunteering to find out more.



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"I feel valued and supported by others in my current role" - you answered X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Feeling valued and fairly treated can greatly affect how deeply a person feels connected to his or her job. Social scientists call this embeddedness, and it often has positive effects for well-being. Certainly it is better than the alternative. Nevertheless, being embedded can sometimes make it harder to free oneself from a job that is less than ideal. Research shows that many people believe that their positive relationships at work would be hard to replicate elsewhere, but this is often unduly pessimistic.  

Going deeper:

A number of things are likely to underpin your sense of feeling valued and supported, in particular:

- My immediate boss is supportive and fair
- My colleagues are generally congenial and constructive      
- The wider organisational or institutional setting upholds the value of what I do  

Which of these are true for you? Which might be missing? What could you do about it? See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


My immediate boss is supportive and fair 

Working with people who are not fair and aren’t supportive is stressful and difficult.  If this is your situation, you are not alone: people frequently leave their jobs because of a poor relationship with their line manager.  Whilst we certainly acknowledge there is a vast array of poor managers out there, we’d also ask you to spend a few moments getting into your manager’s shoes:

- Have they had training or supervision on how to be a manager?
- Do they know what you want and how you feel?
- Are they actively unsupportive and unfair, or do they perhaps not understand their impact?
- Are there ways in which you could be more supportive to your boss?

Having reflected on these questions, you are in a position to consider the chances of things improving.  If you think they can improve, then it’s probably time for some open conversations (see the toolkit on ‘conversations with my manager’).  If you don’t think things will improve, then the chances are you are already looking for another role and this is probably the best thing (unless your manager is going to move soon). We suggest that the third option of ‘waiting and hoping’ for change is rarely a successful course of action.   

My colleagues are generally congenial and constructive

If you feel your colleagues aren’t congenial or constructive then it can lead to you feeling the environment you work in is toxic and difficult, making it harder for you to enjoy your work and to perform well.  If you want to address this, it’s worth trying to work out the underlying cause – relationships are complex, so there may be many and varied reasons for things not working.  The following questions may help you to get under the skin of what’s going on:

- What behaviours are you seeing that you find difficult?
- How often, when and from whom do you see these behaviours?
- What do you think is the intention behind these behaviours?
- When (if ever) is there congenial and constructive behaviour?
- How might the others view your behaviour?
- What’s the impact of how things are now – on you, the others and the organisation?
- What are the potential benefits of addressing this?

Having reviewed these questions, you might be able to address things directly with your colleagues, to explore what is going on, the impact and the opportunity for change. For support on this see the toolkit ‘positive outcomes from difficult conversations’.

If talking to your colleagues has not worked, you may have no option but to talk about this with your manager and ask for some support. Usually they’ll ask you how you’d like the situation to be handled so try to have an idea for what you think would be the best approach. If the situation is serious you could suggest external support, such as mediation. 

The wider organisational or institutional setting upholds the value of what I do

It might be you have great colleagues and a great boss, but the wider organisation does not provide an ideal environment and you don’t feel valued and supported in general.  This feeling may be driven by many things such as unachievable sales targets, feeling unrecognised by top management, having to work with bureaucratic systems, or being highly stressed because a department is under resourced, and these things are generally issues beyond your immediate control.  

Organisations can go through difficult periods so it is worth gaining perspective – is this an ongoing, endemic issue or just short-term? Are the leaders aware of the issues and trying to address them or is there no interest in creating a positive culture? Does your connection with your work and your immediate team compensate enough for the wider environment? Depending on your answers to these questions you can make decisions: about whether to put up with it or leave. Do you try to change it? If you want to try and change it, then you might want to start by thinking how you can have your voice heard, who in a position of influence could you speak with? what do you want to say about the situation, the impact and the opportunity?



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"Overall, I would say I'm content with the work I do now" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Over a century of research has shown that overall job satisfaction is a very important contributor to life satisfaction and positive mental health, so it’s a goal that’s worth working towards. Research has also shown that people differ in what aspects of their job they care about the most, so working through this questionnaire is designed to help you identify the issues that may or may not contribute to your overall work satisfaction.

Going deeper

This work audit is all about helping you to find work satisfaction in the short and long term.  It also deals with sustainability and the work-life interface. Even if you are satisfied now, is that likely to be maintained in the future, and does it come at a cost for your life outside work?  The following questions are helpful to review regularly – perhaps three or four times a year:      

- Overall, I am content with the work I do now      
- If I am not content, I am taking action to address this      
- Overall, I expect to feel content with my work in 6 months       
- If not, I am taking action to address this      
- Overall, I expect to feel content with my work in 12-18 months     
- If not, I am taking action to address this

See the toolkit ‘creating a career ownership habit’ for more information.

Sustainable Motivation


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"My current work is likely to be engaging and stimulating for me in the years ahead" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Motivation is expressed by how hard a person tries to do their work well, how long they go on trying, and whether they focus on what they are doing. It is not always easy to stay motivated through a whole career. Lower engagement and motivation is often linked to under-stimulation or over-stimulation.  The level of stimulation is partly about the job, the level of variety and how the role is evolving or changing.  There are also some interpersonal differences at play. Some people are content to find a niche and stay with it, others are more restless, constantly seeking what’s next. To the extent that it is possible, looking ahead, to anticipate both one’s own reactions and the job requirements that can help you find and stay in work you find motivating. This theme picks up the issues around being under-stimulated.  If you want to explore the risks of over-stimulation and burnout, please go to theme 6.

Going deeper: 

‍Ifyou have scored this theme below a 3, it is likely to be due to some or all ofthe following:

- I worry that in the future my current work will become boring to me      
- I worry that I will not feel energised by my current work in the future       
- I hope that I am not still doing this work in 3-4 years’ time  

Which of these are true for you? Which seem to be the biggest concerns? What could you do about it? See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


I worry that in the future my current work will become boring to me 

However much you like your work, it’s possible after 20 or 30 years to have had too much of a good thing! This is not to imply that you have become lazy, rather that your work is not as stimulating for you as it might be. Of course, plenty of people are in that position, some for all of their working life. However, it is easier to maintain an extended career and to keep a job if you are motivated.  If you are worried about future boredom, you might find it helpful to consider:

- Is the concern about the specific job you are in at the moment? The chances are that your job will become more boring for you over time, especially if it has a predictable pattern to it (though of course some people like that). Awareness of possible future boredom can help you to be proactive about future options.  Whilst there is no need to take immediate action, you might want to consider what you can do to inject some variety into the mix. Alternatively, in consultation with other stakeholders, you might try to “craft” your role so that it contains more of what stimulates you and less of what doesn’t.  See the toolkit on ‘job crafting’ 

- Is it because of the type of work more generally? If you are pretty sure the line of work in general is in danger of losing its shine for you, then it becomes important to consider which elements of it you like and want to keep, and which bits you really don’t expect to find interesting going forward.  This might help you to investigate whether there are niche roles within your current line of work that major on the bits you think you can retain an interest in. If that’s not possible you can use the insights from these reflections to inform your search for alternative types of work. See our toolkit on ‘career change’.   

- Are you unsure why? If so, you might ask people in different jobs but still in your line of work how they experience it. This could help you understand whether your job is typical or an outlier within your field, guiding a decision about whether to seek a new job in the same field or to branch out.     

I worry that I will not feel energised by my current work in the future / I hope that I am not still doing this work in 3-4 years’ time 

If you feel negatively about either of the above questions, then it’s helpful to reflect on how you feel right now.  Do you feel energised now? Are you happy to be doing your job now? If you are happy right now, then, it might be helpful to review the reasons why you expect negative change in the future. This may enable you to take action now to pre-empt it by either changing yourself or changing the situation.  If you are not happy right now, then it is likely that more immediate action would be helpful. The following questions might help you to identify some things you could change:

- What energises me most about my current work?
- What drains my energy?
- How does this affect me outside work?
- How could I adapt my work to have more of what energises me and less of what drains me?
- What could I do outside my work that would increase my general energy?
- Who could I talk to about this? 

Sustainable Work


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"As I get older, I think I will continue to be able to handle the demands of my current work" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Most people think that work has become more intense over the last two or three decades, as economic competition and technological change both increase. As working lives become longer, it may become difficult to sustain this level of intensity. Moreover, research shows that people’s capacities at work tend to change with age, some for the better and some for the worse.  Therefore, as well as considering motivation (see theme 5), it is necessary to assess whether you think you will be able and willing to take on the demands made by your current work as you get older. If you feel unable to meet the demands this may create undue strain or burnout. On the other hand, your work may require attributes that you expect to develop further as time goes on, thus keeping it within your capabilities.

Going deeper:

Confidence in handling demands is typically driven by mental, physical and attitudinal attributes.  As we get older, it is important to be aware of stereotypes about older workers and recognise them for just this – stereotypes that don’t define us!  We are therefore keen within this theme to encourage you to recognise the strengths that you will develop over the coming years.    

- Mentally, I can continue to handle the pressure in my work for the foreseeable future    
- Physically, I believe I will be able to continue to cope with the demands of my role    
- I think that I will stay positive rather than becoming jaded and cynical in my work   
- I think my current work will increasingly play to my strengths in the coming years

Which of these are statements are true for you? Which are not true? Which do you want to do something about and what could you do?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


Mentally, I can continue to handle the pressure in my work for the foreseeable future / Physically, I also believe I will be able to continue to cope with the demands of my role.  

If you have strong doubts about either or both of these, you may need to take some steps to mitigate problems further down the road.  Some change is natural as, on average, people become less physically agile and less able to excel at mental tasks that are both rapid and complex as they get older. So, it can be helpful to take precautionary steps to avoid injury or harm.  We suggest that you start by considering which bits of the role you might find difficult in the future and then ,if necessary:

- Asking someone in authority in your workplace whether it is possible for you to change jobs internally, or have your current job adjusted a little so that it contains more tasks you feel will be within your sphere of capability.
- Considering how a different working pattern (such as part-time or flexible working) could help you to rest and recover so you can meet the demands (rising to the challenges of a really full-on day can be easier if you know you will have tomorrow off).  
- Consciously focusing your mind more on the tasks in your job that motivate you, and less on those that do not. This does not mean ignoring the latter, but instead paying more attention to the former when you think about your job.
- Sometimes the saying “a change is as good as a rest” is true. Perhaps all you need is a change of scene, doing things you already know you are good at but in a different environment. Are options for a sabbatical or short-term break possible? Some people we’ve worked with have been able to take 6 months off for example  

I think that I will stay positive rather than becoming jaded and cynical in my work 

Some people are generally more likely to stay positive, others to see things through a more cynical lens.  If you anticipate becoming more cynical, then it may help you to look at one of the following:

- Alignment of your values with those of your organisation. See theme 1 ‘fit with work’ and the toolkit on ‘understanding my values’.
- How to stay curious and to keep learning - see theme 17, ‘curiosity’.       

I think my current work will increasingly play to my strengths in the coming years

As mentioned above, as you get older, some of your skills are likely to change, some improving, others potentially reducing. In addition to this, the demands of your work or sector may change.  This happens a lot with our clients who love an area of their work (e.g. hand drawn design) and the market is moving far more towards developing new skills (e.g. digital design).  There are two things to reflect on here:

- Most markets and technologies develop and change. No job can be expected to remain completely static and part of the ‘deal’ for being paid is keeping up to date and keeping your skills current, in line with how the market is moving.  In your role, if things are changing in your organisation, chances are they will be changing across the board.  You are in a position to benefit from your current organisation and take advantage to utilise the goodwill and trust you’ve built up to develop the skills you need to stay current.  Asking for support and moving in the direction you need to move is all the better if your current organisation can support you. Can you find a way to embrace the changes and acquire the skills?
- If the changes are fundamentally altering the role to something you don’t like and can’t see yourself developing into, then it may be time to evaluate how else your skillsets can generate value.  Who else needs and wants what you can offer? Networking in your own field and understanding where other options may lie will be a useful step for you. See the toolkits on ‘networking’ and ‘career change’ for further help

Work Security


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"There is likely to be continuing demand for my current work in the future" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Careers are forged where the supply of labour meets the demands of the labour market.  Even declining parts of the economy need some workers, but it’s a whole lot easier to find opportunities in buoyant areas for which there is likely to be continuing demand, especially if there are not too many people with the necessary skills trying to get into it. So, it is worth considering how secure your work is for the foreseeable future. Not just your current job, but the kind of work you do.

Digging deeper:

Work security for the future may come from a number of places.  If you’ve scored this theme low and want to explore it, then the following prompts should help you to understand where the challenge might lie:

- My work is in a part of the economy experiencing a good rate of growth      
- The world will always need people to do the kind of work I do      
- Apart from routine updating, the skills and activities in my work will continue to be required      
- The supply of suitably skilled workers is less than demand in the kind of work I do

Which of these statements are true and not true for your type of work? What does this tell you about the future demand? What might you want to do about this?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


If any of the above statements were ‘not true’ for your type of work, you might be working in a field which does not have a predictable and stable future.  If this is the case, you have a number of options, shown below.  It is worth being proactive and thinking your next steps through early, rather than waiting until the demand dries up.

- Collect more insight.  Were your answers based on a hunch, or do you have real data and insight to draw on?  You might be being unduly pessimistic - can you connect with others in your sector perhaps in other organisations and sanity check if your suspicions chime in with those of others? If you want to check what projections are for growth or change in your sector, you can use this tool:  
- Explore other possible work options. It could be worth discussing with your current manager whether there are ways you could acquire more job security where you are now.  Perhaps there are particular skills you could learn that will make you more valuable in your current role? Is there a sector of the business which is expanding?  If you are on a short-term contract perhaps it is possible to discuss a transition to something more long-term?  See toolkit ‘conversations with my manager’.
-  Make a change.  If job security is not a realistic prospect, you may find it helpful to consider theme 10 network and 11 self-positioning, so that even if your job ends you are well-placed to find a new one. The toolkit on ‘career change’ might also be helpful. 

Balance and Flexibility


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"My current work is likely to offer me the flexibility I need to balance my work and life in the years ahead" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Work-life balance is a significant concern for most people. Reasons for wanting to make sure we have room for our life outside work differ and change over time. It is not an issue confined to the early child-rearing years. With age, your need to be more flexible is likely to increase: caring responsibilities or simply your own physical needs to maintain your health through exercise are arguably more important as you get older. Poor work-life balance usually increases the stress on a person and may also negatively affect their relationships and fulfilment in work and (especially) out of work.  Research indicates one of the most important factors predicting a long and happy life is the quality of the close relationships you have in your life: jeopardising these for work over a long and sustained period is unwise and likely to reduce the ability to stay productive at work in the latter part of your career.

Digging deeper:

Work-life balance now and in the future tends to be about time, space and flexibility.  If you’ve scored below a 4, the following statements may help you understand where your opportunity is:

- I currently feel overworked: my work leaves me with insufficient time and energy to do things I want to do outside work
- I worry that in the future, I may not be able to make space in my life for any other commitments that may arise (for example caring for elderly relatives)
- It’s not easy for me to adapt my work to give me flexibility in balancing work and life commitments.

Which of these statements are true and not true for your current work? What does this tell you about the opportunity you have to improve your work-life balance?  What might you want to do about this?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


I currently feel overworked: my work leaves me with insufficient time and energy to do things I want to do outside work

If this describes you, then it sounds as if you are already feeling overworked and you’re already compromising on what you are doing outside of work.  You may need to take steps to make work more manageable.  Here are some thoughts to get you started:

- If you have a partner, it may be worth reviewing together how you allocate your time and responsibilities. It is well-known, for example, that in dual-career households, women still do most of the housework and child-care. Perhaps one partner is running around trying to shield the other from the worst of the pressure, at too much cost to self. Although many people are very reluctant to do it, if you have enough money, you might consider buying in help at home. At least in the short-term this may be a pragmatic solution.
- You might decide to look for a job of a similar kind but with somewhat less intensity.  Many people, as they age, search for jobs which give them less (not more) responsibility. It can be difficult to know if a job will have less pressure until you get into it, but you may be able to obtain information from other people in your field who know the lie of the land. If there is currently someone in (or close to) a job you are trying to get, it may be helpful to talk to them about the demands.  
- It is possible that your work is unreasonably intense. For example, your employer may simply be asking more of you than you can give for much longer. Depending on the social and employment relations in your workplace, it may be appropriate to speak to your manager (see toolkit, ‘conversations with your manager’), a human resource manager, an occupational health specialist, or an officer of your trade union or professional association. If you can be specific about what needs to change in order to make your work sustainable, one or more of these people may be able and willing to help you change your job description, and/or the expectations placed upon you.
- Is it possible that you are consistently going ‘above and beyond’ and that you are putting the pressure on yourself? This can be quite a common challenge as we try to ‘prove’ ourselves as a committed worker, someone who can be relied on and is always willing to help… or numerous other mental scripts that can get us into habits of doing too much.  If you think this might be you, then have a look at our toolkit on ‘working effectively 

I worry that, in the future, I may not be able to make space in my life for any other commitments that may arise (for example caring for elderly relatives)

If you’ve agreed with this statement, perhaps it’s only an issue if it bothers you or if you have caring or other commitments that are likely to arise. Assuming this is the case, then there is some positive news.  Many employers have policies, such as flexible working and extra parental leave, to enhance work-life balance. Make sure you are aware of these and take advantage of any that can help you. Men especially are sometimes reluctant to do this, and in some organisations there is unfortunately still a perception that (whatever your gender) if you use policies like this, you are not serious enough about your career. However, these problems are receding. At the time of writing, the UK Parliament has introduced a bill to make it that all jobs can be made flexible as a default option. This is not law yet - it hasn’t been passed, but Covid-19 has made the case for flexible working. Either way, momentum is building. You can follow progress on this bill in parliament here.

Companies are increasingly also under pressure to introduce a carers policy. There is guidance organisations have to follow and, if you find yourself in a position in the future where you need to care for someone, you can learn more about your rights here. 

It’s not easy for me to adapt my work to give me flexibility in balancing work and life commitments

If this is the case, is it due to the nature of your work, the culture or your unwillingness to adapt your work?  

- The nature of your work may not be something that can easily be changed (e.g. being a doctor – patients don’t stop getting ill in the middle of the night!).  If you struggle already owing to the nature of your work, only you can assess how important this is going forward and how you might want to address it.  If it’s the nature of the work, then you might want to investigate the toolkit on ‘career change’.
- If the source of the problem is that the culture is not very accepting, then depending on your appetite, you might have an opportunity to try and shift things.  There always needs to be someone to take the first step and chances are, if you do, you won’t be alone. Great attention is paid to work-life balance these days – read through the section above as you do have some influence here and things are changing.
- The other thing to consider is, are you making the most of the opportunities you do have to adapt your work?  Do you know what the opportunities are, and have you had a conversation about them with your manager?  What could hold you back from taking advantage of things like flexi working, mental health days, un-paid leave, part-time working?  Some people are concerned about the consequences of doing these things, worrying that it will negatively impact their status and influence in some way.  Unfortunately, that may be the case, but as mentioned previously, things are changing. You may have a choice – do I take the flexibility and the consequences, or do I find another way to cope? 



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"I make an effort to control my work and career" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

A wide variety of research has shown that seeking to exert control over the shape of your work and life is associated with career success and satisfaction. Being in control of your career means being willing to take responsibility and action rather than leaving it to luck or other people. Whilst employers may offer development-enhancing opportunities, the responsibility for making sure our work and career take the form we want lies principally with us. We cannot control everything of course, and we may experience disappointments along the way. To take effective action, it is helpful to know what you are trying to achieve and how well you are doing. In turn, this requires independence of mind, so that what you are trying to achieve reflects your own values, and not those of the majority of people in your workplace, or society as a whole. Nevertheless, exerting effective control is often best done after seeking inputs from people with knowhow and wisdom.

Going deeper:

Research helps us to focus in on several things in this theme.  The statements below are associated with people who take control of their work and career:

- I seek autonomy in how I go about my work
- I decide for myself what is good for my career, even if it is different from conventional wisdom
- I tend to make things happen, rather than wait and go with the flow
- I actively engage with mentors and people to help guide me

Which of these statements are true and not true for your approach to work and career? What does this tell you about the opportunity you have to improve your level of control? What benefit would that bring you? What might you want to do about this?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


I seek autonomy in how I go about my work

Autonomy is a very strong predictor of job satisfaction. Consequently, if you feel you want more autonomy, it’s important to do something about it.  If you don’t act, it is likely to be extremely stressful and that is very bad for your health.   There are three questions we suggest you explore:

- Do you want more autonomy? It may be that you like the status quo and enjoy having a framework and structure around you, finding this reassuring. However, there are benefits to seeking more autonomy that are difficult to unlock if you do nothing.  Greater autonomy can help you shape your work the way you would like, and it sends a signal to others that you are your own person. We often find that underneath, people would like more autonomy, but low confidence is holding them back from taking control.  If this sums up things for you, then the toolkit on ‘building confidence’ may help you.  
- Does it feel as if someone else is holding you back from having autonomy?  Do they place demands and expectations on you that give you little control?  Addressing this will require you speak to someone about how this affects you and what you’d like to see change.  See the toolkit on ‘positive outcomes from difficult conversations’       

I decide for myself what is good for my career, even if it is different from conventional wisdom / I tend to make things happen rather than wait and go with the flow

If these statements don’t apply to you, then it implies you are not actively thinking about and acting on your career in fresh and new ways that will work for you.   If this is the case, you are at risk of finding after time that the market has moved on and the skills you have may increasingly become obsolete.  It was entirely possible in the past for some people to stay in one job for 40 years. Now, with longer lives,  all indications are we will need to keep an eye on the market and proactively understand and plan our career futures. Making your own career decisions requires:

- Clarity about what you want and why, situated in the context of the opportunities and constraints that relate to you
- Thoughtful decision making: A decision style that does not endlessly procrastinate, or conversely come to an immediate spontaneous answer, nor one which hands responsibility over to someone else. Effective decision making about work and career can either be intuitive or calculated. Intuitive decision making prioritises “gut feel” about the best way ahead, but it is really important to realise that this is based on prior thought and information – otherwise it would simply be spontaneous. The calculated style is more cognitive, where pros and cons are carefully articulated, often written down, and sometimes even assigned importance ratings. Some self-assessment tools for career decision-making and the impediments that may be relevant to you can be found here.      
- Commitment to get reward.  Making your own career choices is an ongoing project.  It takes an investment of time, effort and thought. It requires you to conduct research, try things out, learn new things.  If you expect it to be done and dusted in 5 minutes, you are likely to be disappointed!  However, as we have shown in other themes, the rewards are significant, bringing numerous health and wellbeing benefits. 

I actively engage with mentors and people to help guide me

Throughout your career, you may engage with people to help you. Research indicates that many people find it helpful to have a mentor, especially when the relationships spring up spontaneously rather than being organisationally managed. Mentors can, but do not always, offer a range of benefits. One basic distinction is between career-related benefits such as helping you develop skills and contacts, and so-called psychosocial benefits, such as a listening ear.  For most people, an effective mentor is someone who has been there, done that and is willing to help you.  This places a lot of conditions on the role expected of someone else and it runs the risk of an unrealistically high set of expectations.  A key point is not to hand over decision-making responsibility to a mentor. Anyway, if your mentor is skilled, he or she will refuse to accept that responsibility! Use a mentor as a sounding board and source of useful insight and information, but remember he or she is not all powerful!

Mentors are one form of support and may be someone to support you with a very specific goal (such as understanding how to succeed in the world of whisky distilling).  However, there are lots of other people in our lives who can be our ‘career helpers’ at different points.  They may be the ‘listening ear’, the catalyst for a change, the introducer, the realist… all of these people have a role to play.  For more information, see the network theme.



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"I maintain and continue to create a good network of contacts" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a cliché but there is some truth to it. Of course, it’s important that the people who know you are suitably impressed with what they see, and that they are in a position to support your career in the ways you want.  Research shows that the most effective social networks for career purposes tend to be those where the people in the network do not form a single tight group, where your relationship with each person in it is more than nodding acquaintance, and where relationships are reciprocal, i.e. you are willing to help others if asked, as well as expecting help from them. By the way, be careful not to think you have little or nothing to offer others. This is very unlikely to be the case.

Without a good network, there is a danger of operating in a silo. A network is not just about asking for help – it’s about getting a wider perspective on your market and having a good idea about what trends and issues are shaping your sectors.   

Digging deeper:

Networking is an ongoing process – great networkers invest time in growing their network through new contacts and in deepening their network through time spent with people.  Some jobs are more socially based than others and make it much easier for the networking to occur.  The following statements capture this:

- I maintain contact with people who work in a relevant field
- In the past year, I have personally initiated new connections and made new contacts
- In my current work, it is easy for me to make new connections

Which of these statements are true and not true for your approach to your network? How important is your network for your future? Are there changes you want to make?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


I maintain contact with people who work in a relevant field / In the past year, I have personally initiated new connections and made new contacts 

One of the potential advantages of mid-career over early-career is that you have had the time to build up a good social network and hopefully also a reputation. The challenge is to keep it up. In mid-career there is a tendency to start to value the relationships one already has over and above making new ones, which helps feelings of social connectedness and community but can be a handicap in career terms. People vary considerably in their comfort with networking.  The following things can hold you back:

- Confidence.  You don’t feel comfortable approaching people you don’t know, and you worry that they won’t think you’re worth talking to.  If this describes you, check out the toolkit on ‘building confidence
- Don’t know where to start.  As mentioned above, it takes time to build and maintain your network, and given that many of us are ‘time poor’ it is helpful to be planned about it.  The toolkit on ‘networking’ will help to get you started.
- Give and take.  In our conversations about networking, we find that some people struggle with the idea of ‘reciprocity’ mentioned above.  Some people tend to focus on the ‘give’, others on the ‘take’.  If you want it to work for you, you need to invest time in both sides. Both ethically and practically, it is important that you contribute to other people’s careers as well as expecting them to contribute to yours.

In my current work, it is easy for me to make new connections

Some roles and sectors involve lots of connections, making it easy to build and maintain our networks.  However, other roles are more isolated, or positioned within a tight knit group, with little connection to external networks.  If this describes your work, then you will need to work harder at developing a network of people who you can help and who can help you.  The first step is to explore existing networks and connections that you could join.  Here are some places to look:.  

- For work, the most widely known site is LinkedIn.  Most people would benefit from having a profile there because you may have contacts in your past who are looking for you – but without a profile you aren’t being found.  LinkedIn also has interest groups, so you can follow different organisations, engage in debate and become part of a community of people with interests like yours.
- Facebook will also give you an indication what’s going on in your sector and some potential groups.  Many people may not associate work groups with being on Facebook, but you’ll find groups for flexible working (35,000+ members), Business Stud  teachers (4700+ members)  Professional HGV drivers (48,000+ members).  You name it – you probably work in a sectorwhere there is a group or network you can connect with.  You may have a union but do bear in mind unionsoften focus on a particular sector, industry or type of work. They maytherefore have limited information and insight about other areas.
- If you are thinking of potentially starting youownbuiness or working for yourself, try looking at Enterprise Nation who have received significant government funding and, as a result, are able to offer a vast array of support on how to start your own business.  Likewise, you will have a ‘local enterprise partnership’ (LEP) – a government funded network of 38 organisations.  They exist not just for people interested in their own ‘enterprise’ but in enterprise in general. You may find your local LEP has funding for all sorts of skills training options.  Each is run completely independently because different areas of the UK often have very different enterprises (Cornwall will have a much larger focus on things like ‘marine tech’ whereas Yorkshire will focus more on farm business skills). Either way, it’s a good way to connect with businesses that are of significance and importance in your local area, or an area you would like to live and work in.



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"I am proactive in maintaining a strong personal reputation" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

People often talk about the role of luck in their career, without realising that they may have played a significant part in making their own luck. Several other questions, such as Work Security, Control and Networking contribute to our ability to position ourselves to take advantage of opportunities when they occur, and indeed even help to make them occur in the first place. Because access to opportunities often depends on the decisions of others, positioning also has a strong social element: ensuring that key people have the impression of us that we want them to have. For a field of work you might want to enter, self-positioning is likely to be harder than in your current type of work but that doesn’t mean you are helpless.  

Digging deeper:

If you are proactive, you are likely to be positive about the statements given below.  In many ways, these are the antithesis of the approach that says ‘keep your head down and you will be noticed’: Some people worry that doing these things is about self-promotion and being political.  In our view it isn’t – it’s a fundamental part of maintaining your employability (however, if you just promote yourself and never give anyone else credit, then you may find people don’t appreciate it!).    

- I know what to do to ‘stay ahead’ in my field   
- I am liked and respected by others with whom I work  
- I make an effort to be visible to the right people at the right time

Which of these statements are true and not true for your approach to your career? Are there changes you want to make? See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


I know what to do to ‘stay ahead’ in my field

It is often said that employability is the new job security. This is because jobs are said to have become less secure over the last twenty or more years. Few of us have a “job for life” any more, if indeed we ever did. So instead of finding a secure job, an important career task is to make sure that we can find suitable work when we want to. This is employability. There are two ways to look at employability – the ability to find work outside your organisation, and the ability to find work within your organisation.  They are inter-related, but for clarity we’ve separated them out here.     
- External employability.  This is all about understanding the changes that are likely to happen in your field in the coming months and years – and making sure you are ready for them.  We hear of lots of people who have valuable specialist skills and don’t realise that the skills will be redundant as the next tech/process/trend emerges.  Don’t let that be you!  To safeguard against it, we suggest that you:  

- Keep an eye on the jobs market and check out the job description and person specification for roles that might interest you in the future
- What exactly would the job involve and what skills and experiences would it require?   
- How have these requirements moved on from the past, and perhaps from what you would have expected?
- How might you acquire the necessary skills and experiences, perhaps through projects within your current job, or through training courses?      

- Internal employability.  This is about understanding the informal career rules in your workplace, gaining insight into the ‘career deal’ so you can stay relevant. To do this, we suggest you:  

- Consider how people have been promoted, or have left for a better job, or have been given that dream assignment in your current organisation that you would like for yourself.   
- What is it about these people that has got results for them? Perhaps it’s the specific work experiences and roles they have accumulated. Perhaps it’s because they know a key person, or they heard about the opportunity early and were able hastily to acquire some relevant experience. How can you learn the informal rules and use them?
- What are going to be the ‘in-demand’ skills and experiences? How can you make sure you are positioned to add value to your organisation in the future?
- What are the risks in your current role and how can you mitigate against them? For example, if you have in-depth skills on something that is a legacy product/system, take that as the writing on the wall and get yourself ready for what is next!        

I am liked and respected by others with whom I work

How do you know? Is there a way you can check this out?  If you say ‘no’, it might be that you’re being tough on yourself, but if you are not liked and respected, why might that be? What is the impact? And what (if anything) do you want to do about it? Relevant factors might include whether you are seen to be putting in your share of effort, whether you “muck in” when required and do your share of the tasks nobody likes, whether you are perceived to perform your job competently, whether you leave loose ends that others have to tidy up, and whether you take the trouble to be pleasant or at least civil to your colleagues.      

I make an effort to be visible to the right people at the right time

An important part of career management is knowing how to maximise your chances of being in the right place at the right time. Often this is not a matter of luck. If you want to find out more about how to make your own luck, you might be interested in the book Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career by John Krumboltz and Al Levin. People who position themselves skillfully make sure that, if and when a job opportunity comes up, they have the right attributes to be considered for it. They will also have made sure that other people at work know about these attributes, so that they seem like a natural candidate for the role. Despite codes of practice and legislation for equal opportunities, many jobs are obtained informally through social networks, so being acquainted with a lot of well-placed people who can tell you about possible opportunities is important. Finally, you may decide you need to become more active in social networking. This can feel daunting, especially if you have limited self-confidence or are strongly introverted. However, everyone can improve, and establishing relationships with more people doesn’t have to feel false or manipulative. See theme 10. Networking, and the toolkit on networking for more information.

Financial Security


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"I am confident that financially, I am providing sufficiently for my future" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

It is common for working people to be financially under-prepared for retirement, and unsure of how much money they will need – until it is too late. The financial crisis in recent years, the huge cost of Covid, and the lack of preparedness for an ageing population, mean the future likelihood of substantial government support is low. There are always many calls on our money, and relatively few of us put saving for retirement at the top of our priority list. Even when working people recognise that their saving for retirement is not adequate, they do not necessarily do anything about it. 

Digging deeper:

Financial planning matters and helps to give you choices about your future career.  These statements may help you to dig a bit deeper:      

- I am regularly contributing money to a retirement plan      
- I know how much my retirement savings and/or pension plan are currently worth      
- I have calculated how much money I need to save or invest each month in order to retire when I want to 

If you cannot confidently say yes to these statements, then you may need to have a major re-think of how you manage your money.  Note that the statements do not in themselves imply that you think you will be well provided for in retirement – only that you are doing what you can and that you know where you stand.   


For people thinking about making changes to their career, roughly 30% find they cannot afford to do so. You are welcome to attend a Brave Starts session (we hold them quarterly), where you can meet a financial adviser. These sessions are free but you do need to be a member (also free).  Alternatively, and if you can’t wait, have a look at the Financial Conduct Authority website.  Financial advice is a regulated industry. We recommend you choose an advisor registered with the FCA – if you don’t, you have no protection as a consumer.  Most financial advisors do offer you a free one hour consultation. We recommend you use this opportunity to speak to several and evaluate your options.  

Pension provision and systems differ between countries, so what you need to do will also differ. Pensions Europe is a financial body that aims to oversee the provision of good pensions and good pension practice across the European Union. It does not give pensions advice to individuals, but it lists key contacts in EU countries. You can find these here.

Career Clarity


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"I have a clear idea what work I want to be doing in the years ahead" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Research shows that being clear about what work you most desire and why is an important attribute in career development. This is especially the case at times of personal transition. Without this clarity it is difficult to know what direction to travel in or what goals to set. It may be that your current type of work (even if not your current job) can offer what you want if you manoeuvre yourself appropriately. If you are considering changing to a different type of work, take a careful look at whether it offers what you are looking for. Do not rely on stereotypes and assumptions.      

Uncertainty about oneself is not confined to young people, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. In our own research with 5535 people (all aged 50+) the most significant factor (almost twice as much as any other barrier) was ‘having no idea what to do next’. Knowing what you’ve done in the past does not always prepare you for what you might want to do in the future. Often, we have competing tendencies and it is hard to be sure about which are most dominant. In fact, sometimes it simply may not be clear.

Digging deeper:

Here are some statements that capture how some people describe their thoughts on their future work direction:

- I do not know what types of work interest me most      
- I do not know what I care about most in my work       
- I have no idea what I want to do next  

Which of these statements are true and not true for your approach to your career? How does that help you to understand where to focus your attention?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


I do not know what types of work interest me most 

The assumption that you have to start with work activities that interest you is not always correct.  Many graduates report going for any job they could get and then finding they develop an interest in the work over time.  Work that interests one most often does so because of what it represents, and the goals which it helps to achieve (see theme 1: Fit with work). It can be useful to consider what activities you most like doing, but the values box may be a more significant one to tick first (see the toolkit on values).  Interest is usually the product of caring about the impact you are having, the team you are doing it with and the belief you have in the organisation.  Saying all of that, if you are starting with a completely blank slate, you can try the following: 

1.   Keep a diary over 2 weeks of what you watch on TV, what articles you are drawn to read more of in newspapers.  Think of conversations at parties or social gatherings – what are the topics that really draw you in?  What problems in the world do you care most about?  
2.   Have a look through this short exercise: please note however, this is open source software developed by the Department for Education working with the Office for National Statistics.  It is not as ‘slick’ as you might have come to expect from more commercial online tests, but we like the open source nature of the test and the fact you don’t need to part with any personal data to complete it.        

I do not know what I care about most in my work / I have no idea what I want to do next   

What you care about is essentially what you value, so you may find it helpful to look at the toolkit on values to get some ideas.  If you are starting from a blank slate and want to remind yourself of what you value and get some ideas about what you might possibly want to do next, this exercise will stimulate that thinking:

1.   Have a look through some of the featured jobs advertised by Reach Volunteering.  We’ve specifically selected a volunteering site for this next task because we don’t want you being put off by location or salary.   
2.   Your task is to look through around 30-40 until you can identify 5 opportunities you like the idea of and that you are interested by. Try to consider which are the ones you want to read more about. Try not to view this through the lens of what you’ve done to date or what you think you could ‘get’ if you were to apply for it (that is a different exercise!).  For now, the idea is to stimulate thinking about possible alternatives but through a practical lens of what are organisations actually wanting/looking for.
3.   Reflect on the top 5 opportunities you’ve selected. Your task now is to articulate WHY these opportunities appeal. You may find a lot of what appeals talks to the values you have as an individual (which again make this exercise useful)
4.   Are there particular types of organisations you are drawn to? (more craft vs actuarial for example)?
5.   What are some of the tasks in the opportunities you are more drawn toward and what are the underlying implications these hold for you (in essence you are trying to articulate WHY these opportunities appeal). For example, an opportunity to help a local community centre fundraise for a local sports hall might imply: you like the idea of coming up with ideas to raise funds; maybe it is stimulating an interest in sports that appeals; perhaps you like the idea of working with physical spaces and seeing the impact of your work; maybe it is the idea of working in a local community role.  It is what you infer about a role that is the useful insight we are looking for.  
6.   Your final task is to take your list of ‘why’ you are drawn to certain roles and brainstorm with a friend/colleague/partner/manager about what this might mean for a possible future. If you work in an organisation, maybe this list is pointing you to a different department?  The point is, you don’t know what you don’t know.  It might take someone else to help you have an “ah ha” moment about what your interests might be signposting.  You may have heard of the concept of ‘career anchors’ by Edgar Schein.  We mention it here mainly as it is a popular term in the career coaching space and it is heavily used in organisations. At a cost of nearly £40 to take the test, we don’t feel it will reveal any more to you than the exercises we have outlined above.  If however you’d like to look into the career anchor concept in more depth, here is a link.

For more ideas, see the toolkit on career change.



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"I know that no matter what happens, I can rely on myself to do what is needed to pull through any situation" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Research on a cluster of concepts such asself-esteem, proactivity, resilience, core self-evaluations and psychologicalcapital all point to the importance of having a positive sense of self. Ofcourse, it is possible to be unrealistically positive about oneself to thepoint of fantasy, but with that exception, overall self-confidence is animportant attribute in putting oneself forward for opportunities, approachingchallenges with a sense of purpose, and not giving up after a setback. Ingeneral, people with high self-confidence are more likely to achieve (up to thelimit of their abilities) than people with low self-confidence. They are alsomore likely to impress other people so considering your levels of self-confidenceis especially valuable when trying to make changes in your life.  

Self-confidence is important because it affects what we are willing to try to achieve. Having low self-confidence makes career-enhancing activities like social networking seem daunting (see the toolkit on networking). Of course, self-confidence varies somewhat between situations. We might be confident of our ability to cook a good meal but not to change a wheel on a car. However, to some extent self-confidence is also more general - it is something we carry round with us. People who don’t feel they have any issues with their self-confidence and may indeed be over-confident might come across as irritating and arrogant, so take heart if you feel this is an area you could develop!

Digging deeper:

We have identified four important elements of self-confidence.  Clearly, these are not the only ones, but they do help us to break confidence down a bit:

- I have the necessary attributes to live a good life      
- I can make things happen when I need to      
- I have a track record of being able to achieve what I set out to achieve     
- I have faith in my ability to bounce back after disappointments

Which of these describe you? Are you positive about all of them? If so, how can you check that you are considering risks and that you’re not being over-confident?  If you do not agree with these statements, which areas would you like to look at in more detail?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


I have the necessary attributes to live a good life

Often in the context of work, people can lose sight of the wider context and what is important to them.  If you are not sure you can agree with the above statement, we invite you to do the following: Choose 8 of these 10 areas and assess for yourself how happy are you with each on a scale of 1-10 (1 being you are really unhappy about it and 10 being you’re so pleased about it there is no room for any improvement).

1.   Family/Friends
2.   Partner/Significant Other/Romance
3.   Career
4.   Finances
5.   Health (emotional/physical/fitness/nutrition/wellbeing)
6.   Physical Environment/Home
7.   Fun/Recreation/Leisure
8.   Personal Growth/Learning/Self-development
9.   Spiritual wellbeing (not necessarily religion – can be sense of self)
10. Choose one of your own if it’s really important to you and not in the above list.  

Once you have assessed your top 8, ask yourself which ones you care most about changing.  Some areas might be lower than others in terms of your happiness with them, but maybe that’s OK for now because context allows it. For example someone who has just had an accident and has a leg in a cast for 8 weeks may not be happy about not being able to play tennis, but they accept the context and position for now. With the areas you score low and care most about improving, think about the following:

- What would success look like? What would you need to see in order to give a significantly higher score?
- Give yourself a mini goal of doing something about it in the next 2 weeks.  If you’ve scored low on personal growth, identify a book, a TED talk – anything you are interested in and commit to it.  Maybe fun and recreation is what you crave, in which case you might want to invite people to something which is your idea of fun and get it organised.  The point here is that you may need sometimes to remind yourself of what is good about your life and how much control you can exert over it.       

I can make things happen when I need to /  I have a track record of being able to achieve what I set out to achieve 

Almost certainly you can and have made things happen in the past. If you don’t feel you can agree with these statements at present, you might need reminding of times when you could. We’d like to ask you to identify some past successes, and focus on them. If you can’t think of any, ask people who know you well. You might be pleasantly surprised. For example, one of the authors of this material once occupied a role where he felt he had fulfilled it competently but mechanically, only to be told later by others that he had been highly innovative and initiated change that mattered! Another thing to do is to ask yourself:  are you the sort of person who experiences a lot of negative self-talk?  This is particularly common with people who are prone to being anxious, worry a lot and are very conscientious.  Negative self-talk, is saying things to yourself such as “I could never do that” or “I tried that once and it didn’t work out so I’m not trying again”, “people don’t respect me so I can’t influence them” etc.. This is a cycle and it can become self-fulfilling.  It is possible to change but it does take time as your thinking may have become habituated and it often takes someone else to point it out and help you to take action to change it.  The right kind of someone else can hold up the mirror and work with you to change the negative talk to something more constructive.  For help with this, see the toolkit on limiting beliefs.  Many organisations also have ‘Employee Assistance Programmes’ (EAPs) so if yours does, make use of it.       

I have faith in my ability to bounce back after disappointments

If you really don’t feel you have the psychological resources to bounce back from disappointments, please also explore the notes to theme 15 psychological wellbeing.  Disappointments are a fact of life and most of us experience times of crushing disappointment.  The difference however may be others feel more able to bounce back.  

Psychological Well-being


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"Most of the time I feel cheerful and relaxed as opposed to worried and anxious" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

High psychological well-being helps a person to see the positive elements of a situation and to take things in his or her stride. In that respect it is like self-confidence, but well-being also has a strong positive emotional element. It implies that we can adjust reasonably happily even if things don’t quite go to plan, and find joy in elements of life even if they aren’t the result of our own endeavours. It is worth asking yourself why you do or do not currently feel a strong sense of well-being. What is the balance between your experiences and your own habitual outlook (i.e. your personality) in determining your well-being? What implications does that have for your future? 

Digging deeper:

As with some of the other themes in this work audit, psychological well-being is a huge area!  We have selected three underpinning aspects to help you to dig a bit deeper. The word ‘usually’ is important here – few people would feel like this all of the time!    

- I usually feel positive about life   
- I usually have energy for the things that matter to me     
- I usually feel that my life has meaning 

Which of these statements describes you? How are they inter-related for you? Are you content with your psychological well-being, or is it something you would like to explore?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


If you assess yourself negatively regarding the above statements,  then this is likely to have an impact on how you see your work. It’s very difficult to feel low positivity about life and then look forward to a cracking day at work.  The causes and consequences of low psychological well-being will not be confined to the workplace. Perhaps you find work, career, and life in general something of a struggle. This is hard, as you no doubt will not need to be told. It can be changed for the better though. Small steps and positive habits can help.  Perhaps you can start with the following activity:      

- When was the last time you felt positive or energetic or as if your life had meaning? (most of us can identify at least one time when we experienced at least one of these things)     
- What was going on at the time?     
- What contributed to these feelings?     
- If you think back, can you re-experience what it felt like? (even for a few moments, it’s good to be reminded that you have been here before)     
- What learning can you take from this? Are there things you could re-create or do to re-ignite some of the positivity, energy and meaning (for example, time with friends can make us feel more positive, exercise often helps our energy levels, volunteering may give back a sense of meaning)?

To find out more, see the toolkit on well-being.



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"I find the thought of starting over again in something new more stimulating than daunting" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

People vary in their attitudes to change in their life. Some, perhaps boosted by self-confidence, regard it as an exciting challenge and an opportunity to learn and develop. Others find it a disturbance to their equilibrium or a distraction from achieving their personal goals. There may also be some concern about changing status from expert to novice in a new setting. Of course, it partly depends on the specific change in question. Finding change worrying does not necessarily mean you cannot initiate and successfully navigate it, but it’s likely to stretch your personal resources.      

Digging deeper:

So, how do you feel about starting over? Which bits do and don’t bother you?               

- The prospect of unfamiliar experiences worries me                
- I’m not very open minded about seeking opportunities to make a change               
- The reality of starting over in a junior position bothers me  

Which of these statements describes you? How is this influencing your approach to your career? Which do you want to find out more about?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


The prospect of unfamiliar experiences worries me / I’m not very open minded about seeking opportunities to make a change 

Firstly, take comfort, many people feel worried by the unfamiliar and avoid seeking opportunities for change.  Looked at from a different lens, to dive into things without any fear or concern is not desirable and can create huge risk... just imagine giving up a job and embarking on re-training as a nurse, only to find you hate it!  A reasonable amount of caution is needed for good decision making.  This is only a problem if you find the concern or worry prevents you from ever taking action. If you sometimes feel yourself a bit paralysed about taking action, here are some thoughts to help you:      

- Things are unlikely to work out first time.  Making a change is partly about trial and error, so don’t put yourself under pressure to get to the ‘perfect’ answer straight away. Remember the famous Edison comment, ‘I never failed once making the lightbulb. I just found out 99 ways of how not to make one’.  You might find lots of ways of how not to have satisfying work – that is all valuable learning!
- Take comfort that many of us are negatively biased. That means we are more likely to see the bad in things than the good, and we reward ourselves with feeling relief if we decline to do something we think might be too challenging (a term referred to as ‘experiential avoidance’).  Knowing this is how you are wired will hopefully mean you find it understandable why you might be concerned or worried about making a change. To help yourself to manage your potential avoidance, you might find it helpful to think about times in your life when you have been anxious about change but have nevertheless successfully initiated or managed or coped with it.       

The reality of starting over in a junior position bothers me

This is a particularly pertinent question for the ageing and experienced worker.  Work and identity are so closely tied together.  When you meet people for the first time, one of the first questions you are often asked is ‘what do you do’? Expecting age to go hand in hand with seniority is an ideology that is thankfully fading but it still has some force. With the extensions to life, we are all having to reinvent ourselves and having 4-5 lines of work over a lifetime is increasingly common.  The development of things like ‘Now Teach’ to attract the career changers who want to go into teaching is a tiny example of the movement which is gaining (and will continue to gain) momentum.

There is evidence those who are better able to make changes to their careers are those who are not only in a position financially to do so, but who can swallow their ego and admit to others they are making a change and learning again.  Our advice is simply if you find yourself in this position to see it as the privilege it is. Anyone who is able to admit they’re starting over and learning something completely new, is likely to attract admiration and support vs the person who is apologetic and somehow ashamed of what is unquestionably a brave and bold statement, and especially vs the person who appears resentful of their new status. If you dread answering the question ‘what do you do?’, you might want to rehearse an answer so you’re ready with something that really captures the why and the how, as well as the what.

Remember too that your prior experience and accumulated wisdom are at least partially transferable to your new context. To mix metaphors, this will help you learnt he ropes, and to climb the ladder in your new career if that’s what you want to do.



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"I am curious about and maintain interests in things not always directly related to my field of work" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Curiosity contributes to a person’s career adaptability, which is their capacity to successfully undertake the career challenges they face, whatever they may be and whenever they occur. Curiosity stimulates a person to learn more skills, to know more about what is going on around them, and often, as a result, to expand their social network. Thus it helps in becoming well-informed and well-connected, as well as contributing to a positive attitude to change (see Q16). Curiosity may partly reflect personality – what psychologists call “openness to experience”. But it can also be a learned set of behaviours.

Digging deeper:

Curiosity comes in many shapes and forms, it’s an attitude of asking, enquiring, considering, exploring, stretching your boundaries rather than sticking with what’s known.  How does your curiosity show in your life?                

- I have hobbies and interests outside of work              
- I explore topics that are unfamiliar to me and enjoy learning new things               
- I keep a close watch on current affairs so I know what’s happening in the world

Which of these statements describes you? How much time do you invest in being curious and how much do you enjoy it?  Would greater curiosity help you in your work and your life?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


I have hobbies and interests outside of work

Anything that offers an additional lens to view things with a different perspective, perhaps learn new and make new friendships, can lead to a range of benefits, perhaps including some unexpected ones such as a job opportunity via someone you meet doing your hobby. Also, a hobby or interest can be an important way of managing any life or work transition, as you have certain things in your life that you control and can remain more constant.      

If you can’t say yes to having hobbies and interests outside work, it may suggest you are too focused on work or that you aren’t giving enough time to broadening your horizons.  Hobbies and interests could mean things like volunteering.  Whereas people can retire formally from paid employment, we would always advocate you have an interest or hobby outside of work. Not only are there clear health benefits from physical things like golf, swimming, gardening, tennis, and many other moderate to strenuous activities, there are also health benefits from being engaged and feeling you are supporting a cause/purpose you care about. For example, many people who engage in Parkrun (a weekly UK 5k run for all abilities at numerous locations) find they make new friends and feel they are walking (or rather running) the talk of healthy living that Parkrun stands for. Of course, physical activity may not be where you want to put your main focus. If you haven’t already considered voluntary work, have a look at some of the opportunities available.  The NCVO is an umbrella organisation looping lots of volunteer bodies together under one roof.  Our favourite volunteer search board is Reach Volunteering but this is the wider network.

I explore topics that are unfamiliar to me and enjoy learning new things

Until mid-career, many people operate in an expansive way. That is, they seek to expand their range of skills, contacts and experiences. This is in order to establish themselves in the world of work, and to demonstrate their mastery in their work and their embeddedness in social groups related to work. It is worth making this investment because there are a lot of career years remaining in which to reap rewards from it.  In mid-career, many people switch somewhat from this expansive mode of operating to a more conservative one. As you may have realised if you have read the notes for some of the other themes, in mid-career the focus tends to change from acquiring new skills, experiences and contacts to getting the best out of what one has already acquired. For most people, this is not a complete or sudden change – more one of emphasis.

Nevertheless, research indicates that psychological well-being and continued success in the workplace are enhanced by an orientation towards personal growth and future opportunities (in and out of work) right through one’s career. It’s not easy to hold on to past gains without keeping on growing, especially now that working lives are lengthening.

If you don’t enjoy learning new things etc., you may be trying to get by solely on the experience and skills you have already acquired. It is certainly important to use these established attributes but, as noted above, it may be perilous to ignore personal growth and development. This is particularly the case if you are trying to scrape by with knowledge and skills that really are outdated. You might find it helpful to challenge yourself to identify what would feel like progress in your career at this point. Then ask yourself what learning and personal development you need to make progress. Remember to start small and be realistic in your goals.  

See the toolkit on agile learning for more help.

It may feel daunting, but avoid making the mistake of believing that old dogs can’t learn new tricks.      

I keep a close watch on current affairs so I know what’s happening in the world

This is a reality check statement.  If you keep an eye on what is happening in the wider world around you and understand what is happening in the news, then you can’t be completely accurate if you’ve answered all the statements above negatively!  If you really don’t ever watch the news or have any interest in current affairs, then the guidance on the statement above may well be especially appropriate for you here.

Career support


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"I have the support and resources required to initiate a significant change in my work life" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

As well as being psychologically open to change and novelty, a person’s life context is important when considering a shift to a different type of work. Dreaming of a new kind of life is one thing, but the practicalities of whether it could really work are often quite another. The concept of career can be applied to a whole family or household as well as an individual, because the form of one member’s work is likely to have implications for everyone else too.  

Digging deeper:

Itis no surprise that support in the form of either having a financial buffer orclose family who are supportive is a very strong factor is helping determinewho will be able to make changes to their career.  Think about the following statements inregard to your circumstances.  

- The people who matter most to me will back me in implementing my career plans  
- I am able and willing to take a financial hit if necessary to make a change in my work  
- It would be possible for me to relocate in order to make a new start  

Which of these statements is true and not true for you? What is the impact of this on your choices?  

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


The people who matter most to me will back me in implementing my career plans 

Strong social bonds are a really important part of getting older.  There are the bonds you have at work, but more important are the bonds you have in your life which will continue well beyond any work you might be doing now or be thinking of doing in the future.  It is important to bring those you care about with you on any change process. Telling those you care about how important they are to you sounds a little ‘cheesy’ but rarely is anyone offended or upset at being told they matter to someone else.  If you feel the support around you socially is lacking, there are a number of things to consider:      

- Have you been open and honest about how you are feeling and the impact of staying put?     
- Are you clear what sort of support you would like to receive? Can you be more specific in your requests?
- What is the likely impact on them? What could be done to make it easier for them?      
- Sometimes the people closest to you become dependent on the image and financial support of you fulfilling a certain role and they become openly negative and discouraging of you making any changes.  Have you listened to understand what their real concerns are or might be? It is outside of the scope of this report to make any concrete recommendations. The circumstances for each person are intensely personal, but rarely is living your life on someone else’s terms a formula for long term happiness.  Sometimes a negotiation (I’ll do this for 12 more months) can give people the time they need to come around to the idea of some changes.        

I am able and willing to take a financial hit if necessary to make a change in my work 

If you feel ‘financially trapped,’  we suggest that you double check that your position matches the reality.  Visit our comments on theme 12. Financial Security.   Your alternative may be to see what costs you can cut. It’s easier to make changes if you can cut costs to your lifestyle.  It is no surprise that the times the most changes happen are when people similarly experience a life change – downsizing their home and relocating is the route many take to enable this to happen. Some people experience a positive surprise when they need to make significant financial savings and find that, not only is it more possible than they thought, but also the quality of life they experience is not significantly damaged.    

It would be possible for me to relocate in order to make a new start  

The silver lining created by Covid-19 has been the rapid adoption and the acceleration of the acceptance of remote working, so relocation might not be needed.  If you are thinking of relocation, here are some quick points to consider:

- What you hope to gain from the move (e.g. access to different work, stimulation of being somewhere new, closer to friends/family)
- What are the downsides of a move (e.g. upheaval, leaving a community, cost)
- What do you need to include in your decision (e.g. future proofing, financial implications, transport)
- How can you check out your options to help you and those you care about to make a good decision?

If you feel working from home remotely is a route to which you are well suited, there are some specialist websites and recruitment platforms:
Remote Worker
Indeed is the largest UK jobs board and they feature jobs which are entirely remote
- Flexjobs      

Clearly this is an evolving concept made all the more popular after Covid-19, so you’ll need to do your own searches to stay up to date with the changing recruitment landscape on this type of work.

Current Health


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"I am generally in sound physical health at the moment" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Physical as well as psychological health is an important determinant of ability to remain in productive work and especially to meet new demands such as a different kind of work. This should be taken in context – for example, if you have a physical disability, the statement “In general I am in good physical shape” should be answered relative to what can reasonably be expected. Continued good health is key to staying in the workforce for a full career and building up enough pension entitlements to live comfortably in retirement. It is also important for performance at work and overall quality of life.   

Digging deeper:

Here are some statements to help you think what might be going on for you. A full assessment of physical health is beyond the scope of this assessment.  You may have health limitations or disabilities that are not reflected here.  The statements below are designed to offer an overview of self-perceived physical health, with an emphasis on the workplace and recent/current events.        

- I have no significant health conditions that require more than routine medication     
- In general I am in good physical shape      
- I have been out of action due to poor physical or psychological health for fewer than five days in the last year

Which of these statements is true and not true for you? What is the impact of this on your current and future work?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


If you have assessed yourself as having concerns on any of the above statements, then your health is likely to be a constraint on your current work and career. If it stays like this, there may also be difficulties in staying in work until a normal retirement age, and in withstanding the demands of making a significant career change. Even if what you are heading towards is easier on your health than what you are leaving behind, the journey can be demanding.  

You may have health difficulties that are already receiving treatment and this, rather than anything you can do, will be the key to your health in the future. If your health is not great and you are not receiving treatment for any specific condition, you might be well-advised to seek medical advice about why your health is poor. There may also be things you can do for yourself through good day to day routines.  If you are concerned about your health and want to take a closer look, then a good place to start is the UK National Health Service’s advice on ‘betterhealth’.  This contains information and support on topics such as getting active and losing weight.  The NHS website also has lots of advice on health conditions, their symptoms, treatment and prevention.  For more information on psychological health, see the toolkit on well-being.

Future Health


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"My lifestyle habits (e.g. diet, alcohol, drugs, exercise) are good for maintaining my future health" - you scored X to this question

Why do we ask this?

Just as it is important to provide for future financial health, the same applies to physical health. Irrespective of your current health, what are you doing, and refraining from doing, to help protect your future health? This is likely to be important for your long-term viability in the labour market and your ability to make the sustained efforts and adjustments usually required when changing to a different type of work.

Digging deeper:

The following four statements cannot cover all significant aspects of good health habits. Many potentially relevant behaviours and statistics are not included here, such as risky sexual behaviour and body mass index. Furthermore, some people have long-term health conditions which prevent them exercising vigorously, or even from eating fresh fruit and vegetables in the case of certain digestive conditions.       

- I exercise vigorously (e.g. run, gym, swim, cycle) for at least 30 minutes three times a week      
- I make sure I eat some fresh fruit and/or fresh vegetables every day     
- Per day, on average, I drink no more than one large glass of wine (or two standard shots of spirit, or a litre of normal strength beer)       
- I have no habits that could damage my health(e.g. smoking, drug taking)

How healthy is your lifestyle? Given your circumstances, which of the above statements, if any, do you want to do something about?

See the toolkit on action planning to capture your commitments and help you to keep on track.


The statements above are relevant for most people with normal health. Collectively they give an indication of the care you take over your health. In mid-career, it can be easy to let this go a bit. Work pressures, the awareness that one is ageing, and possibly declining energy can all make us less careful than we need to be. Good health habits can make a very significant difference to your ability to work well and to stay in work until the age at which you can afford to retire.

Whatever your score for this theme, you may find it useful to consult guidance on healthy living. The following section of the UK NHS website gives some good support on sustainable physical health: Live Well - NHS

Every small behavioural change makes a difference, so if you do not solve everything at once, try to dwell on the changes you have achieved, as well as those you have not (yet). And if you have an occasional lapse, then try to forgive yourself.        

I exercise vigorously (e.g. run, gym, swim, cycle) for at least 30 minutes three times a week / I make sure I eat some fresh fruit and/or fresh vegetables every day 

What we took for granted in our younger days cannot be taken for granted now (for most of us anyway!). The importance of exercise and diet becomes more important as we age because we tend to become more sedentary (and some suggest that our body is slower to metabolise), so it’s easier to gain weight and run the risk of developing obesity, which is highly likely to impact on your ability to enjoy a fuller healthier longer life.  

Exercise can be dull and boring if done for its own sake. It’s often easier if you find ways to build it into your daily routines. Whilst it needs to be vigorous, it doesn’t have to leave you gasping for breath or stretching every sinew!   Walking briskly to and from work instead of taking your car or the bus is a good example. Joining groups of people where you might gain the dual benefit of making new social friendships is strongly encouraged.

Wherever you live there are likely to be local sports clubs and groups.  Getting on to local Facebook groups or, where possible, starting your own will have the additional benefit of you helping build community for others. Similar to exercise clubs and groups, there might also be cooking classes, support groups for smoking-cessation, weight-loss and eliminating alcohol abuse, amongst other things.

Similar comments apply to eating fruit and vegetables. You don’t have to become vegan of the year! It might be good to review what you eat in a day or week and then make a few judicious substitutions. Many of us eat a lot of beige food and not much food of other colours, especially green. You might feel an aversion to some “healthy” foods, and if so, there is no need to force it. Focus on those that you do like or at least find tolerable. Might an apple or a raw carrot be an acceptable substitute for a bag of crisps as part of your packed lunch three times a week? Can you have slightly fewer roast potatoes and more peas, leeks, broccoli or whatever green veg you find acceptable in the work canteen, or for Sunday lunch? Or if there’s a side salad available, you could opt for it instead of something with more fat, salt and/or sugar. Small changes done every day can make a huge difference – for better or for worse!       

Per day on average, I drink no more than one large glass of wine (or two standard shots of spirit, or a litre of normal strength beer)  / I have no habits that could damage my health (e.g. smoking, drug taking)

Most people enjoy a drink with friends and are not harmed by it, but daily levels of consumption above this amount might suggest a higher level of dependency.  It is easy to drift into this, perhaps because friends do it, or because you develop a liking for it and slowly escalate consumption until you become dependent on it, and in the worst case scenario addicted. You are probably aware that there are services and support groups available to help you tackle dependence on drugs, alcohol and other things (such as gambling). For example, information about alcohol potential misuse and treatment in the UK can be found at Alcoholmisuse - NHS.

A really good approach if you think you may have a looming problem is of course to nip it in the bud. Can you substitute something less damaging but still pleasurable to take the place of the potentially unhealthy behaviour? You might find it helpful to ask yourself what reward you are seeking from your behaviour, and whether there is any other healthier way you could achieve it. To take a small example, perhaps you tend to snack a lot during the day - so called “comfort eating”. Identifying what you are seeking comfort from, and whether there are alternative ways of gaining comfort, might help you change your behaviour. Perhaps you are bored with your job and want breaks from its monotony. In such a case perhaps you could reward yourself for working diligently for an hour or two by watching 5 minutes of a favourite show on Netflix instead of eating three biscuits.  Regarding alcohol, as well as non alcoholic beers, a new class of non alcoholic spirits is taking shape.