Many people define their career by what they do. Ask them to describe their experience and they will give you an account of years in a role in an industry. The answer will be a dry recitation of their curriculum vitae. Focusing on this list of what narrows their potential future opportunities. If we start looking to fit them to another similar role in the same industry we have narrowed the world of opportunity down significantly. Poor recruiters consider candidates against a role and industry checklist, but we all know that roles and time is a very narrow understanding of how people contribute to their organisation.
Change the question. Ask people why they enjoy their work and you will get a much richer answer. They will tell a story and their eyes light up. Perhaps the answer will be about the challenge, the learning and the problem solving. Perhaps it will be about the ability to help others or to achieve a particular personal or strategic goal. Perhaps they enjoy their work because of others with whom they get to work.
That answer is much more powerful in helping an individual frame what opportunities are ahead. Focusing on the why increases the opportunities to contribute to that purpose beyond one role or one industry. Focusing on the why also makes it more likely that future opportunities deliver a sense of personal reward.
Roles and industries come and go. With accelerating change and disruption, we need to all be open to the adaptation that arises when you focus on why.