You spend at least a third of your 24-hour day working, so it would be to your benefit to make sure you are working in a job or career that you enjoy, don’t you think? A few years ago, a Gallup Poll revealed that 70% of Americans either hated their jobs or were disengaged in them which means they are bored or are just going through the motions. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem like a great way to live.
I have been lucky in my life. I sort of fell into my first career, and it turned out to be a perfect fit for me in many ways. Later, when I had an opportunity to begin my new career as a coach, I got to spend some time thinking about what it was I wanted to do and how I wanted to make it work.
When I am coaching my clients who find themselves at a career crossroads, I ask them to consider some basic questions. They are the only ones who can answer these questions, but they need to think about them.
Here Are 5 Career Questions I Think You Should Ask Yourself Daily:
1. Am I doing something that is in alignment with my core values?
You can never be happy in the long term if you are working at an enterprise that is not in alignment with who you are and what you value. If you are someone who cares deeply about the environment, you will feel out of alignment if you work for an oil company or a company that routinely releases smog into the air. You might want to consider that before taking a job with that type of organization. There are some jobs that aren’t worth taking no matter how much they may pay if they make you feel like you are not living in alignment with your basic values…what you care about deeply.
2. Am I doing something that will leave a lasting impact?
As I talk with mid-career professionals who find themselves at a career crossroads, I hear a common refrain. “I want to do something that is meaningful. I care less about the money than I do about doing something fulfilling.”
Making money is important. We need it, after all. We must pay the bills. We need to have money to raise our families and take trips and do the things that it takes money in order to do. Money alone isn’t enough to make us happy with work, however. The 70% of Americans who either hate their jobs or feel disengaged with them are making money, but they are finding that money just isn’t enough to make them feel like they are making a difference. They want to do something that makes them feel that they are leaving a long-term impact on the world.
3. Am I doing something that is in alignment with my natural talents, aptitude, and dispositions?
I have a friend who decided to major in earth science and agronomy when he went to college. This was a surprise to me because he is a musician and an artist. Math and science had never been strengths. He made the calculation, however, that he couldn’t “make any money” playing music or painting pictures or drawing, so he went with his pragmatic side. Thirty years later, he has never had a sustainable job in earth science or agronomy. He may have been right about the fact that he couldn’t make a lot of money playing music or drawing and painting, but he might have been happier in the long run working in areas that came more easily to him.
When selecting a career, I recommend that you select one that allows you to play to your strengths. If you don’t know what your natural aptitude is or what your dispositions and inclinations happen to be, take some time to figure it out. Take the Myers-Briggs assessment, take a Pathway Planner assessment, take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. Learn about yourself using the Enneagram model…find as many different ways to learn about yourself as you can. Still don’t know what your natural strengths are? Ask a friend or family member to tell you. They will know.
Here is a case in point: When I was in high school, I made the comment to a friend that I had no natural talent. My sister was the artist in the family, and my brother was the musician. I couldn’t draw a stick figure, and I can plunk on the piano because I took lessons for ten years, but I have no natural musical talent. My friend looked at me aghast and said, “Are you kidding? Your talent is knowing what to say to people and how to say it.” Boom. I had no idea. I also had no idea that other people recognized me as someone they could depend upon, but my senior year in high school, my classmates voted me the “Most Dependable Girl” in our class. I was stupefied. You mean everyone isn’t dependable? Uh, as it turns out, no! You may need help, but you need to check in with yourself to make sure the work you are doing comes relatively easy to you.
4. Am I stretching myself a little every day?
Yes, I know I just said that your work should be in alignment with your talents, aptitude, and dispositions, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t also involve challenging you a bit. We need to stretch in order to grow. If you can find a career that allows you play to your strengths and challenges you enough to make you grow, you have hit the career jackpot.
5. Can I see myself doing this same work five or ten years from now?
This is a critical question that you should ask yourself every month if not every day. Let me share with you that the next ten years will fly by if you don’t decide to take notice and plan accordingly. I can attest to the fact that as a young teacher, when I looked at my retirement statement in 1975 (when I got my first teaching job), 2017 was my projected retirement date. Not only did that sound fantastical because it involved negotiating a whole new century (remember the Y2K concern?) but it sounded so far away. Well, guess what…2017 is now just around the corner.
Whatever your projected retirement date may be, you need to consider what you want to be doing between now and then. If you are simply white-knuckling it at your current job hoping to live long enough to make it to retirement, you are approaching your career with the wrong mindset. I firmly believe that work should be fun and fulfilling! You need to believe that your work can be more than just work.
You deserve to be working at a career that makes you happy! Think about these questions every day so that you choose work that will help you be happy, fulfilled, and feeling like what you do for a living makes a difference to you, your family, and the rest of the planet.
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, RScP is a Career Makeover Coach who helps individuals find work that is perfect for them. She specializes in working with teachers who are burnt out and ready for a change, but she also works with mid-career professionals who find themselves ready to make a move that will feel more professionally fulfilling. Learn more about her here.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.
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