Finding True Fulfillment in Our Careers

What do you like about your job? Is it the work itself, the pay, the convenient hours, your fun coworkers, or maybe you enjoy the fact that it’s not terribly stressful and you don’t take your work home at night? Career fulfillment means different things to each of us. Sometimes, it’s about money, status and recognition, or for many, it’s about service, comradery, inspiration or creativity. Our attitudes and expectations around work also change as we get older and gain life experiences. As we push through our daily grind, it’s important to take a step back to analyze our current level of career satisfaction and fulfillment. If there’s no joy in going to work, don’t despair; it doesn’t mean it has to be permanent! We do indeed have options and opportunities to make our work (and our lives) more enjoyable.

Working to live

When we work solely to put money on the table, it can take its toll. When we are unhappy at work, it can show through a variety of ways such as stress (and other health issues), absenteeism, a defeatist or negative attitude, and so on. If we’re already counting down until the weekend on a Tuesday, or we have that Sunday night panic attack just thinking of the week ahead, that’s never a good sign! Sure, there may be a lot of soul-crushing, dead-end jobs out there, but it doesn’t mean we are forced to stay put. It’s up to us to be proactive and take initiative when we aren’t pleased with where our careers are going. Our attitude and mindset towards our work is important, and we’ll move forward (and upwards) if we stop focusing on and complaining about things that we are unable to change or unwilling to change.

Living to work

Making money shouldn’t be the single deciding factor when looking for long-term fulfilment. Human beings are happiest when we can utilize our personal skills and strengths, find purpose, have some autonomy to make decisions, and work where we feel valued and welcome. Seeking out a fulfilling career is quite achievable, but it may take a bit of effort. To achieve success and personal satisfaction in our work, we can’t wait around for our employers to fix what’s wrong; it’s up to us to forge a new path.

Making lemonade out of lemons

Sometimes we love what we do, but we get in a rut or find ourselves in an unhappy work environment. With bills to pay, kids to raise and our other responsibilities, we can’t simply quit to go find our dream job. We can, however, commit to making positive changes – or at least put in one heck of an effort while we ride out the storm and plan our future career goals. As Wayne Gretzky so famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Here are some ‘shots’ we can all take to improve our current work situation:

  1. Ask for a raise…or flex hours, or work-from-home options, or anything else you think could improve your experience. If the answer is no, seek feedback on your performance and ask if or when your suggestions can be revisited. Come up with great options and negotiate away – employers love dedication and commitment!
  2. Ask for new responsibilities – training new staff, learning that software, working on different equipment, etc.
  3. Contribute to the social aspects at work – suggest some team building or staff PD, start a monthly pot luck, celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries and so on. Being social is good. The most successful employees have work friends.
  4. Gain new skills – whether your employer covers the cost of training or you have to do it on your own outside of work hours, lifelong learning is essential for us to grow and expand our skills. It also looks great on a resume and helps you be more in demand at your next job.
  5. Stick it out while you look elsewhere, and find comfort in the fact that it’s only temporary. Put out feelers within your community for new opportunities, update your resume and social media profiles, and get searching (but never at your place of employment or while on your boss’ dime).

Although our work doesn’t define us, it’s important that we find meaning, challenge and enjoyment. Life’s about the journey, not the destination, and that applies to our work too. We don’t go to work just so we can put food on the table, we work so we feel valued and have a sense of accomplishment. If you’re unhappy in your job, evaluate what issues you’re most troubled by, and either work towards making those changes or change jobs; it’s in your control.

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” – Ella Fitzgerald