Maslow’s Hierarchy of Career Needs

Alan Belniakbusiness, General4 Comments

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

I attended my fourth and final Boston Product Management Association’s (BPMA) Executive Mentorship Council roundtable session this morning.  I’ve been part of this group now for three years, and love it (you can read more of what I’ve written about the BPMA here).  As with past round tables, we cover two topics: one devoted to product management or product marketing, and then a second more related to the career aspects of those in these roles.
Today’s second question was interesting, mostly because of a response one of my colleagues gave.  The question for discussion was “When do you know it’s time to leave?”  The discussion at our table started, and my astute colleague, Kiran “AK” Adapa made a great comment, paraphrased here:


I think it’s important to look at why you might go or stay as kind of like a career-themed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  All things are important, but they certainly layer on top of one another.  And just because one thing is irritating (or great), it might mean that the items below it are fine (or, are problematic).


What a neat approach to use!


So, as the conversation progressed, I started grabbing facets of a career that might be important to someone, based on the conversation in front of me, as well as my own thoughts.


As you contemplate your next career move, you could consider taking this list and arranging it into some loose, logical categories (like Maslow did with Physiological, Safety, and so on), and then stack-rank those groups, given your current position in life (maybe money is more important to you right now, or maybe it’s security of a position as you advance yourself – only you can answer that).


Then, you can evaluate your current working position against your new Maslow career hierarchy, and compare that against a potential new career (if you’re considering leaving your position, or making a career change, etc.).  As our group said, and as the saying goes, “the grass is always greener…”  And perhaps it is.  This approach might make you realize that it’s not necessarily greener, but it may be better for other reasons (or even worse for others).


Here are some issues or facets of that decision to consider.  As mentioned above, you should probably group these into layers of a (new) Maslow Hierarchy into something that makes sense for you. And you can (and should!) probably think of more, but this is a good start.

pay, people, commute, opportunity for upward growth, opportunity for sideways growth, non-cash compensation (vacation, benefits, etc.), availability for professional development,  leadership structure, leadership tenure, company vision, company mission, viability of product/s, quality and/or frequency of interactions with your direct manager, the importance of your role, how your role has been defined and scoped, overall business viability (factoring in things like macro trends, such as the health of the industry and stock price)


How about you?  Have you made a job or career switch?  How did you go about evaluating it?


image source: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.svg by factoryjoe (found on Wikipedia) (CC BY-SA 3.0)


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