Archive for February, 2009

Where Is Your “Locus of Control” and How Does it Impact Your Life and Career?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

Do you have an internal locus of control, or is your locus of control external?

Your locus of control is, quite simply, where you believe the control in your life originates. Do you control your life, or are there other forces outside of you that are in control? It turns out that what you believe — internal or external — can profoundly impact your life and career.

If your locus of control is external, you tend to have little faith in your ability to control and improve your situation. Your inclination is to withdraw in the face of difficulties or obstacles rather than fight for improvement, and you have a passive approach to life, accompanied by a belief in “luck” or “fate.”

On the other hand, if you have an internal locus of control, you are blessed with a high degree of intrinsic motivation, as well as strong coping abilities in various situations that enable you to avoid or reduce everyday stresses. Research has indicated that people with an internal locus of control find their jobs to be more interesting than those with an external locus of control, and they also have a higher level of education. In addition, they enjoy more satisfaction and motivation in their careers.

Why is this important to your job search and career? Because looking for a job these days is not a passive endeavor. It requires determination in the face of rejection and a commitment to researching companies and career opportunities, improving skill levels, and being proactive in an increasingly volatile job market.

I once had a friend who longed to meet the right man, get married, and have a family. Opportunities to meet men at work were very limited, however, and she refused to get involved in anything, so she spent her days at a dead-end job and her nights and weekends alone behind the closed door of her apartment. I encouraged her to get involved in volunteer or social activities, but she wouldn’t think of it. She constantly complained about not finding the man of her dreams, but she steadfastly refused to do anything about it, and so she was perennially unhappy. THAT is an external locus of control.

The same is true for job seekers. As a resume writer and career consultant, I have observed over the years that clients who are willing to take risks, upgrade their education and skillset, and actively look for new opportunities are much more successful and satisfied with their lives than those who take a passive role toward their careers. In addition, they refuse to blame external circumstances for problems they encounter; rather, they look for ways to make necessary changes, instead of hoping for the right opportunities to come to them.

To determine if your locus of control is internal or external, ask yourself: Do I blame circumstances outside of my control for my unhappiness at work, or do I look for things I can do to take control and change things? Am I willing to risk rejection to find the right job, or am I passively hoping the right job will magically fall in my lap?

If you’re unhappy with your career, I can tell you for a fact that the job of your dreams is not going to fall from the sky. You are going to have to go after it, and it’s going to take some serious work and commitment on your part. I urge you to examine whether an internal or external locus of control is driving your life, and then take the necessary steps to get out there and take control.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

[Reference: Biological and Psychological Basis of Psychosomatic Disease, based on papers presented at a conference on Psychological Load and Stress in the Work Environment, Bergen, Norway, 1980. Editors are Holger Ursin and Robert Murison, Institute of Psysiological Psychology, University of Bergen, Norway.]

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