What motivates you professionally? Under what circumstances have you done your best work? Are you most motivated by the promise of financial reward? Knowing that you’ve helped others? The feeling that you’re doing something unique and game-changing? It will be to your advantage to identify your own personal motivators early on, so that you know which kinds of career paths, fields, and jobs you’ll likely find most satisfying.

Look at the list of motivators below, and identify your top 5 or 6. If it’s too challenging to select so few from so many, start by identifying all your motivators and then winnowing that list down in an iterative process until you have the 5 or 6 that are truly most important to you. As with identifying your skills, it’s important that you be honest with yourself, since there are no right, wrong, good, or bad motivators.






Helping others



Having variety in your workday

Doing cutting edge work


Mastering material or specific tasks

Leading and making decisions

Working with children


Collaborating with others

Working with numbers

Analyzing data

Working with theoretical concepts

Working with technical concepts

Solving puzzles

Working alone

Working in teams

Leading teams

Having lots of free time

Work-life balance

Working with experts

Working with the public

Consuming yourself in a project

Being front-and-center

Thinking about details

Thinking about the big picture

Working behind the scenes

Feeling like your work has greater meaning

Working with words and language

Creating something

Improving systems

Fostering teamwork

Coordinating others

Helping others do their best work


Thinking about processes



Of course, if something else that isn’t listed here motivates you, feel free to write that down, too.