“My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity.
I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.”
– Mario Testino

When we’re stuck in our work lives, it can feel like we don’t have any possibilities, any choices. This can show up as external roadblocks and delays to getting what we want, or being fresh out of ideas because we have tried so many options. Whether you’re in a search, development or exploration part of your career, you can use a simple shift in your thinking to open up options – curiosity.

Curiosity is a “strong desire to learn or know something.”  Most of us can relate to the strong desire to know something in our careers.

  • Why haven’t I heard back about my job application?
  • What am I meant to do?
  • Should I become a manager or stay an individual contributor?

Terrific, this kind of strong desire is a perfect place to start.  Now, take that same energy and move it towards something you want to learn, something you can be curious about without an intense edge.  Big or small, it doesn’t matter.

  • I wonder what other organizations are in the same field?
  • What does it feel like when I am contributing in a meaningful way?
  • Is there a skillset I need to learn to become a manager? Do I want to learn it?

Here are some specific examples of how you could stay curious, with some additional resources:

  • On-boarding – Curiosity is a great way to build relationships with new co-workers, and to learning how an organization works. Taking time up front will serve you in the long term, giving you good context for future decision making. Check out this article on how to use both empathetic and intellectual curiosity to frame your questions.
  • Job Search – Job search is filled with uncertainty, and our minds can be really uncomfortable with that! Rather than use our brains to make up stories (like why we haven’t heard back from an employer after submitting an application), try getting curious instead.  Curiosity can help distract the mind from spin, and open up paths of action when you’re feeling stuck.
  • Receiving Constructive Feedback –Perhaps you’ve gotten feedback in the moment from your manager, or in a formal review process.Sometimes it can be hard to hear that something needs improvement. Listening through curiosity can help keep things at a distance so you can evaluate whether you want to take it on.  It can also help you truly understand what they have to say, and lessen the chances for misunderstanding.
  • Difficult Conversations – Genuine curiosity can profoundly change the tone of a tense conversation. It’s also the first step in approaching difficult conversations in this great step-by-step process by Judy Ringer.
  • Career Exploration – A sense of wonder is a boon to understanding what fulfilling work means to you.  Allowing yourself to tap into things that automatically interest you can be quite freeing and re-energizing.  The key here is to not try to pin down process of curiosity until it naturally narrows.  Things aren’t necessary linear in an exploration – try not to limit yourself and allow the process to unfold. You can start with these 25 questions to cultivate curiosity.

No matter what place you are in your work life, you can use curiosity to help you get unstuck and open up possibilities.