CHAPTER 23 YOUR WORKLIFE YOUR WAY By Carmel O’ Reilly

Let Your Curiosity Be Your Driving Force

The unknown was my compass. The unknown was my encyclopaedia. The unnamed was my science and progress.” Anaïs Nin

Curiosity is something that we are born with. As children we are amazed by and question everything. We are sponges of information and learn at an incredible rate. As we navigate through our WorkLife, curiosity is often the first point of our learning process, stimulating the flow of ideas. Exploratory questioning that builds our attention around what has piqued our interest is a wonderful tool for unlocking hidden potential in ourselves and the world around us.

A Case Study

Amelia’s Story: Let Curiosity Be Your Driving Force

Amelia was out of her depth. She was completely overwhelmed in her new role as a software developer. She was beating herself up for being so naive in believing she could get up to speed by really applying herself to learning the skills needed, when the reality was she had no experience, no training, and it was becoming very apparent no aptitude for the work. She knew her gamble had not paid off, and it was time to let her boss know she was giving up.

But let us back up a little to how Amelia got to this point.

She had studied Biochemistry and Molecular Science at university, and when she began her studies her intention was to work in medicine. However, she was unsure which pathway she wanted to follow, as she had a keen interest in both Alzheimer’s and Oncology. To allow her to make her decision, she needed more in-depth knowledge and understanding, and so she based her research projects on both these areas, along with gaining practical hands-on experience through voluntary work projects.

But by the end of her studies she still was not clear about the pathway she wanted to take. While she has enjoyed the research she has undertaken, she has also enjoyed the hands-on work with patients. Her uncertainty kept coming back to whether she wanted to follow a career in medical research or if she wanted to become a medical practitioner. 

Amelia’s love for learning had begun from a very young age, as had her innate sense of curiosity, and her deep sense that she wanted to do good in the world, to somehow make a difference. These core principles became her guiding stars at every crossroads in her life when she had asked herself the same three high-level questions:

  1. What am I curious about at this moment?
  2. What am I excited to learn next?
  3. How will this allow me to do good – what difference will it allow me to make in the world?

These questions helped direct her decisions first as a student, then in her work, and in her life ever since.

Posing these questions when she was uncertain about her career path when she finished university took her to the Dominican Republic on a year-long orthopaedic trauma work-experience assignment. This was because she felt she needed distance from her dilemma to be able to make a decision. Having been a student for five years she also felt that she needed a break, and she wanted to travel, to do something different. However, she also wanted to remain in the world of medicine, while doing something rewarding and fulfilling, something that would allow her to do good. This opportunity met all these needs and wants.

Her year-long assignment gave her so much more than this. Most importantly it opened her awareness to the fact that while not all orthopaedic trauma is life-threatening, it is life-altering, and of the importance of the right care through all stages of recovery. She became acutely aware that not all physicians were equipped with the right level of training to facilitate this, and that there was not good enough communication channels between doctors, specialists and surgeons to ensure patients received the care needed to resume a full and active life.

Her curiosity was once again piqued. She wanted to learn more, and she somehow wanted to do something that would make an impact in this area, but she did not know what. She was back at that crossroads posing the same three questions that had guided her in her life to this point.

At the end of her work experience she came back to London and began to look for new opportunities. By now she had come to value having a sense of excitement in her life, a sense of wanting to challenge herself, to be brave, to experience the unknown. Her curiosity had deepened to wanting to find solutions in a way that would allow her to make things better, to have a wider impact. 

On a night out she was catching up with friends who were working in tech. They were talking about interviews taking place for engineering internships, with a particular focus on software development. Immediately it struck Amelia that technology was the answer to facilitate the learning needed to have an impact in orthopaedic trauma. She did not know exactly how, but she knew it was the solution needed.

Of course, there was one glaring problem: she knew nothing about engineering. She put this to her friends, who of course knew this, but they also knew her to be smart. She managed to persuade them to set up a meeting with the hiring manager.  She then had to convince the manager that she was the right person for the role, despite the fact that she had absolutely no knowledge, skills or experience in software engineering. 

Instead of focusing on what she did not have, she focussed on what she could bring to the role. She did this by amplifying her strengths: throughout the conversation she demonstrated that she was a logical thinker. She convinced them that she was a quick learner.

She knew she needed to explicitly address her shortcomings. To do this she asked herself how she could minimise the risk to them, and what assurances could she give so they would be less likely to reject her. With little to lose, she confronted the gap in her software-development skills.  She emphasised that the internship was only three months long, that she was passionate about it, and that she could learn everything that she needed to learn in that time. 

Her approach paid off and she was offered the engineering internship. She turned up eager to learn, having prepared herself as much as she could, but quickly discovered that while it is admirable to take a leap of faith, executing on the follow-through is the true challenge. She genuinely did not know what it meant to be a software engineer, and soon found herself overwhelmed and out of her depth.

Frustrated and fighting back tears, she told her manager that she wanted to give up. To her surprise, he stopped her. He told her to stop worrying about her deficiencies and comparing herself to others with more experience. His support and that reality check really meant a lot to her. 

After that conversation with her manager, she got to work, and spent the remaining weeks of her internship cramming in as much coding as she possibly could. She was even sleeping at the office. By the end of the internship, she not only completed her project, but also earned a full-time position as a production engineer. She is now settling into her role and letting her curiosity guide her in knowing how she can use her learning to make a positive impact in Orthopaedic Trauma. 

Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters

Let curiosity be your guide to a more fulfilling WorkLife through a deep and personal connection to the adventures and wonders of the world around you. Be inspired and challenged in pursuit of your next WorkLife chapters. 

Crossroads Assignment

When you are at a crossroads in your WorkLife use these core questions as your guiding stars. Ask yourself: 

1. What am I curious about at this moment?

2. What am I excited to learn next?

3. How will this allow me to do good – what difference will it allow me to make in the world?

Moral of this Story

As you set out in your WorkLife, let curiosity be your guide. You will never know where it might lead you, but that is the thrill. It empowers you to explore possibilities beyond what you could have imagined.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

The act of wonder is about having a beginner’s mind: in curiosity it expands your awareness and calls on you to step into the unknown, to grow your desire to know more. 

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

To develop a wondrous approach to your WorkLife, ask yourself leverage ‘attentive’ questions: 

What’s attracting me to this? e.g. area or field of work?

What am I interested in finding out about it?

Why am I interested in this?

Words of Wisdom 

Stay curious, stay observant.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: www.worklifeincorporated.com You’ll find my bio right here: https://worklifeincorporated.com/about/ Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of www.worklifeincorporated.com. I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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