A recent online search on the topic of Career Management provided this summarization. According to Wikipedia, “Career Management is the combination of structured planning and the active management choice of one’s own professional career. The outcome of successful career management should include personal fulfillment, work/life balance, goal achievement, and financial security.”
So I wanted to take a moment and address the topic of Career Satisfaction because if you have successfully managed your career, you should be satisfied with your career choices and options. Unfortunately statistically 80% of working Americans are dissatisfied in their careers. So I’ll ask the question, “Does your career satisfy you?” At the risk of turning this into an “x Number of Ways to Find Career Satisfaction” type of article, I want to ask a few questions and provide my own personal insight.
1. Are you utilizing your natural strengths at work?
Some people are naturally good at creating new ideas and executing strategies. Some people are naturally good at organizing and presenting information to people. Everyone has his/her own natural strengths and weaknesses. What are your strengths and weaknesses is a common interview question. If you find that you’re working in a job where you are constantly working on tasks that you don’t enjoy doing, or the role you are playing constantly caters more to your natural weaknesses than strengths, then you may need to consider finding another role.
One way to evaluate this is to ask yourself, at the end of the work day are you exhausted because you’ve expended energy completing tasks that you don’t enjoy or are you exhausted because you’ve expended a ton of energy completing tasks that you love? What do you do at work that energizes you and makes you smile?
2. Are you growing professionally?
Another way I could ask that question is do you feel challenged? Whether you have been working for the same employer for 10+ years or whether you started working there two weeks ago, do you have an idea of where you want to go professionally? Is there something that you haven’t had an opportunity to do in the course of your job or career that you would love to do? What are you doing to nurture your inquisitive nature, leverage other natural strengths, and learn more about yourself?
One way to determine if you’re growing professionally is to take a look at your personal life. Are you using different skills and strengths in your personal life than you use in your professional life? If yes, then how can you begin incorporating more of your personal strengths/interests into your job?
3. Do you have a work/life balance and is it respected?
It’s up to each individual to determine what work/life balance means and what it looks like, but another way to ask this is, “Are you making time for things you enjoy?” Taking that time to refresh and energize on tasks outside of work, even if they are similar things, is very important to the mental and physical wellbeing of each person.
One thing to think about is if you ARE in a career that you love, it’s likely that you may spend some of your personal time doing similar things that you get paid to do. For example a college basketball coach may spend some of his/her time volunteering at a summer youth sports camp for a nonprofit. It’s because he/she loves it and it doesn’t feel like work. That is fine. The key to work/life balance is to make sure that your personal time is respected by your company, colleagues, and supervisors, and that the way you manage your time away from work is respected as just that, YOUR TIME.
As you consider all of the questions around Career Satisfaction, and there are many more I could ask, think about this one last thing.
4. Why are you working where you work?
Certainly the most common answers to this question are to pay the bills and/or make a living. Some people work where they do for the benefits. Some people aren’t terribly satisfied in their jobs, but they like the company where they work. Some people are just absolutely miserable in the jobs they are in and at the company where they work.
A couple of ideas:
a. If you like your company, but aren’t thrilled in your job, see what steps you can take to explore other opportunities within the company, and find ways to do what you’re naturally good at within the company.
b. If you like the kind of work you do, but aren’t satisfied with your company, what needs to change for you? Are you in a position to influence change where you are and make improvements?
c. If you are just flat out miserable doing what you do and where you work, how long are you going to be able to last before someone determines that fact for you? In other words do you see the writing on the wall?
Most people who are satisfied in their careers are using their natural strengths and interest in a job they love, and at a company that appreciates them. In order to make that happen, job seekers and professionals need to make deliberate choices in determining what values and priorities are the most important. Most people believe that they can’t take control of their own careers, and I’ve even heard parents tell their children, “You’re not supposed to enjoy work.” If you believe that, then you won’t achieve career satisfaction.
Unfortunately there’s not a “magic bullet” to achieving career satisfaction, but I strongly believe that one key requirement for achieving career satisfaction is to assess your values, identify your strengths, define your goals, and envision what personal success looks like to you. Take time to do that and eventually you will be able to say, yes, my career satisfies me.