Three Essentials for Career Satisfaction

The Job Is Yours!

If I were to propose that you spend eight hours a day in a place you don’t want to be, doing something you don’t believe in or care about, would you take me up on the offer? Probably not.

What if I said I’d pay you to do so? Unfortunately, many of us have accepted that offer. Money in exchange for misery. But do we really have a choice? I think so.

You’ve probably heard the saying: Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life. You might not believe it. But if not, answer me this: Why do some people count the years, weeks, days leading up to their retirement while others never really think about it?

A few years back my financial advisor asked me at what age I wanted to retire. He needed the data point so we could figure out how much money I might need. I found the question very hard to answer.

I’d never given much thought to retirement. I wanted to work as long as I was able to contribute. I love to work!

But I haven’t loved every job I’ve had. There will likely be something about any job you don’t enjoy. But when you stop caring, or you dread going to work, it’s time to do something else.

Every job change I’ve made throughout my career stemmed from my being disengaged, disillusioned, or simply not challenged enough.

What we tend to forget when it comes to work is that we have choices. We have the option to change jobs, companies, even careers. Since we spend at least one-third of our lives working, we should probably enjoy our work.

Joy. Money. Flow.

Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why is focused on leadership, but much of what he talks about can be applied at a personal level. If you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy. Listen to his TedTalk for an introduction. Sinek says:

Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief?…Why do you get out of bed every morning?

Do you have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, especially on a workday? Maybe you’ve lost your WHY.

To help my clients analyze and envision what career satisfaction means for them, I ask that they consider three essential elements: Joy, Money, Flow.

Joy: What you love to do. The things that make you feel most alive, fulfilled, and on purpose.

Money: What pays the bills. Having enough money reduces stress and allows us to contribute from the heart.

Flow: What you’re really good at. Your talents, gifts, and strengths.

Where all three intersect is the sweet spot, where you’ll find the most satisfaction in the work you choose.

The Japanese have a model called Ikigai (pronounced “icky guy”) which roughly translates into “a reason for being”. Ikigai goes beyond work, encompassing the larger concept of the things that make one’s life worthwhile. The model includes the concepts I have described above plus the contribution we make to the world.

Some of us will find our “reason for being” within our work. But at the very least, all of us should believe our work is important, be able to identify how it adds value, and make sure our personal values are aligned with our work.

How do you get there?

Moving toward career satisfaction doesn’t necessarily require a giant leap. Small changes may be enough. You may not have to change companies or even assignments.

I once had a manager who totally understood my need to be challenged. From time to time I’d show up at his office door and say “Shirley’s getting bored”. It became a joke with us. But he got it.

He knew that when I got bored I started looking for new challenges (which sometimes meant changing jobs). Because he managed a large organization, there was never a lack of problems to be solved. So he was always able to keep me engaged. My boredom worked well for both of us, and for the organization! Win. Win. Win.

If you’re feeling like your “why” isn’t being satisfied, maybe you can start right where you are. Identify the part of your job that you most enjoy and ask for more of that.

If you want a new challenge that stretches your skills, ask for that. Want to introduce some efficiencies to a current processes? Ask for that. (You get the picture.)

Your managers won’t know what you want unless you tell them.

Good employers recognize that people are their most valuable resource. Good companies work hard to retain their talent.

You might be surprised what you get if you dare to ask. You might find that they want the same thing.

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