Career Transition Confusion? 7 Types of Psychological Motivation | Career Rocketeer

When considering your career needs, you will need to differentiate between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is internally driven and comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards. The motivation comes from the pleasure one gets from the task itself or from the sense of satisfaction in completing or even working on a task. Extrinsic motivation refers to the tangible rewards you receive from your work such as salary, compensation etc. 

The chart below was created for clinical, counseling work. To see the original chart go to  However, I have adapted it for use in a career counseling context. I use this chart in client sessions and together we sort through these motivators. Each of us will have different different balance of variables which can make us happy. There isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to career exploration. If you are in career transition, I’d encourage you to explore the relevance and strength of each of these motivators below.

SWOT Analysis of your Competitive Advantage

Sources of Motivational Needs
How can each category of needs affect your happiness at work?

• Push vs Pull. Is it your goal to obtain desired, pleasant consequences (rewards, salary, bonus’)? Is it your goal to escape/avoid undesired, unpleasant consequences (angry boss, unhappy customers, failed projects)?
• Are you just running away from your current profession or are you genuinely attracted to a new profession?

• Are there positive role models or people who you can emulate?
• How important is it for you to be a part of a group or a valued member of the work team?

• How important is your actual work environment: do you prefer a lively or sedate work environment?
• What do you like in your office? Does your d├ęcor impact the senses (taste, touch, smell, etc. decrease hunger, thirst, discomfort)?

• In your work tasks, do you like a low key or high stress environment? (ie: book-keeper versus air traffic controller)
• Is it important for you to do meaningful work or to understand why your contribution is important?
• How comfortable are you with uncertainty, changes and/or cognitive disequilibrium?
• Do you enjoy solving problems or making decisions, or would you prefer others do this for you?
• Do you like calculations or figuring something out?
• Do you prefer to eliminate threat or risks?

• How comfortable are you with conflict (increase/decrease affective dissonance)?
• Are you drawn to activities which increase good feelings?
• Are you drawn to activities which decrease bad feelings?
• Do you need a high level of work security? Do you attempt to decrease any threats to your self-esteem?
• Can you typically, maintain high levels of optimism and enthusiasm?

• Do you like to choose your own performance goals? Do you like to strive towards company-selected goals?
• Is your career choice related to your dream job?
• Do you strive to develop or maintain self-efficacy at work?
• Do you prefer to take control of your work life?
• Do you prefer to eliminate threats which impede attainment of your dream job?
• How much control would you like others’ to have over your career?

• How does your work relate to your life’s purpose?
• How does your work connect you to your spiritual or religious self?

If you are in a career transition, I'd encourage you to spend some time on accessing your career needs, before diving into a job search. Your career happiness is at stake...


© 2010 - All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA, Counseling Psychology, CPRP. Licensed Counselor. Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist. Atlanta, GA. "Helping business professionals, reach their career potential!"

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