Today's workplace is a challenging one. At a party the other night I was talking with a new friend
who was communicating her subtle unhappiness with the large corporation she worked for. During a
meeting, one of my clients began discussing the insecurity she and others in her company feel due
to organizational changes and the transitional nature of her industry. Recently another client was
discussing his uncertainty with the new direction his company was taking and questioning if it was
really the right place for him. These are all highly qualified, well-regarded senior executives
in great jobs. Yet, even these folks are struggling to feel good about their work and the environments
in which they find themselves.
These comments are hardly surprising to anyone. That is precisely the point. Their feelings are broadly
shared in today's ever changing, harshly competitive and less comforting workplaces. Yet, there are
some, actually many, who are happy with their careers and workplaces. There are those at every economic
level who have found their niche, their place in the work environment and are achieving what they
want. Most everyone would like to join that satisfied group. But how can an individual do that?
This article is based on a speech I gave at a QAI conference in September 2000. Then, as now, my major
goal is to help people begin to reflect and assess their own career and work strategies. By presenting
some selected ideas and approaches that have led to success and satisfaction for people who have achieved
contentment in their careers, it is my hope that these ideas will support other individuals in
their search for rewarding work experiences.
This article has three major sections. It starts with a discussion of the current workplace. It describes
what has remained constant and what has changed dramatically. Next it reviews my understanding
of behaviors and approaches that have worked to make some people successful and other behaviors and
approaches that are not helpful. Finally, it covers four different career strategies that have led
to success for those seeking career satisfaction. It ends with a suggestion for reflection and action.
The Workplace: Brave New World or The Same Two Slices of Bread?
An August 2000 edition of The New York Times described a workplace filled with contradictions. On the
one hand, those with certain types of strong educational credentials who are young and flexible
find the workplace a wonderful new bazaar where their skills are handsomely rewarded. For others,
especially older workers (over 40 and sometimes over 35 depending on the industry) changes in the
workplace are more unsettling.
Depending on when a person entered the workplace the experience is either exciting and new or frightening
and fast paced. The reality of today's workplace is that there are a number of things that have
changed dramatically. On the other hand, there are some things that are constants. Understanding some of
the major trends is the first step to finding one's place in this ever-changing landscape.
Differences in today's workplace versus the recent past
More competition and more demands from customers
The business world is definitely more competitive and customers are more demanding. Despite quality and
service initiatives, people continue to expect more and demand more. Whether you work in a small
software firm in St. Louis or a large company in New York or Los Angeles, it is likely that customer
expectations have risen since you began working. Every quality improvement is met with a new demand
for even greater efficiencies, higher levels of service or excellence, or more competition for the
same customer. Where once some customers might "cut you a break" now fewer do and many make
demands that even the best of us find daunting. You are not imagining it. People are harder to please
More focus on profits and the bottom line
If you work in a large company or any type of company dependent on the financial markets, you will feel
much greater pressure to perform than anyone did in the past. The bottom line may always have been there,
but the race for profits has gotten tougher in every business. Many companies are owned by financial
players who care predominantly about profits , and others work for companies that are owned by people
whose idea of success is the top two or ten folks making more on the backs of the staff. It is unlikely
that anyone in the last five years hasn't felt the pinch of cost saving measures, reorganizing, downsizing,
rightsizing or just pressure to do more with less. Even if you went with a smaller high technology
company that thought profits were not important, the situation has come full circle with profits more
important than ever.
Rapid pace of technology and market changes
The pace of technology change and market transformation in general is another tremendous new dimension
in the workplace. At one time, it was likely that most people could figure out that for example,
"Universal Widget" was making some bad moves and it was time to get the resume out and start
networking. Today, the pace of change leaves many individuals not knowing what happened. Markets
can shift quite dramatically leaving the less savvy with nothing but a million worthless options and a
lease on a BMW that is no longer affordable.
Rapid industry changes and changing norms
Related to this is the pressure to simply keep up with changes in any industry. If you worked in retail
five years ago and dropped out for any reason, it is likely you don't know much of what is currently hot
or relevant to retailers. It means you have to keep up or you lose out. This pace of change is similar
with technology or approaches to work. If you haven't worked since the 1980s or early 1990s you might
think it is still important to return phone calls, or wonder why no one returns your calls. This is just
something that has changed. People respond-but when they want to and only if they want to. Beware of
generalizations, but you get the point. Things change and one has to change or risk being out of date.
Less loyalty and support from others
Related to this fast pace is less loyalty and time to cultivate deep and lasting relationships that help
make change easier to handle. Where once the grapevine, mentors and bosses might be able to help,
today these very people may be out of the loop. This can be the result of absence through travel and
distance, or a lack of interest in helping others get along in the system. Many companies have young
and inexperienced managers, with little or no training, and as a result of this it is, not uncommon to
lack management support in the workplace. Often people are left on their own to figure out
everything from how best to behave, what to do in tough situations or how to effectively manage their
Greater diversity and acceptance of difference
Work place diversity is one of the most different and positive changes. Where once getting along and going
along was the norm, difference is not only tolerated but appreciated even encouraged as never before.
The good news is one doesn't have to look the same or act the same to move freely in the workplace. Although
certainly discrimination lingers, opportunities for people of all backgrounds have expanded. Essentially,
the ability to perform is "king". Going to the right school may still be relevant in a few settings;
it is likely not the norm for most.
More choices of how to work and where to work
Another very positive trend in the workplace is the diversity of
ways to work and places to work. Where once the only way to success
was to get into a large company and stick with the program over
twenty or more years, today's success stories are varied and complicated
with some people doing well in traditional firms, while others are
thriving on their own. For others, a middle ground-working in a
group or small firm, or even in a loose confederation of some type
seems to be the best way to go. Finding the right environment is
challenging, but doable. More about this will be presented in the
final section of this article.
What has remained the same in the workplace
Success takes time
Although the brief ascension of many dot.coms may have seemed an
aberration, their fall from grace and the devastation to their workforces
comes as little surprise to anyone who has worked more than a few
years. There really are few quick success stories. Some would say
there are none, but I always feel there are exceptions. Certainly
some people managed to get ahead of the pack and make a quick fortune.
However, most did not. Many people were damaged not just because
their dreams did not come true, but because they became unnecessarily
disillusioned by companies that did not deserve them in the first
place. As with many things in life, if something seems too good
to be true it likely is. Putting people in jobs for which they have
no qualifications and no experience generally turns into a disaster.
This was often the case with dot.coms, which had people over their
heads too soon. Some folks learned a few good lessons and have moved
on. Others may not have learned anything beyond fear and distrust
of others, which is a shame.
Emotional intelligence matters most
People who succeed, and workplaces that succeed place a premium
on strong emotional intelligence. Daniel Goldman's seminal work
on the nature of emotional intelligence and its importance for workplace
success is a cornerstone of achieving workplace satisfaction and
success. Essentially, emotional intelligence is a composite of a
number of individual types of intelligence including self-awareness,
self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The point
is that those who are satisfied and do well at any given job have
the right types of emotional competencies to succeed at that job.
People make the difference
Another constant is that despite the increased use of technology,
people make the difference in any organization. In companies where
people are treated well and there is a positive culture, day- to-day
work is more productive, people perform better and overall there
is greater satisfaction. Research into companies with good human
resources policies including an abundance of training and proper
work supports, have higher profits and improved performance.
People remain uninformed
Many people are uninformed. This remains a constant too. There are
businesses that use out of date and poor approaches to employee
relations and workplace cultures. There are many very dysfunctional
companies and managers that make their workplaces tough to live
Many are still selfish and self-centered but complete duplicity does not pay
People are the same in that many are selfish and overly self-centered.
To be successful in today's workplace is to be properly savvy and
not na�ve about people's motives and goals. This is no different
than the past, only more so. The current American business and social
culture tells people it is "ok" to exist for oneself.
Healthy selfishness is a good thing. But, for some, this movement
toward proper self-respect and regard has been taken to new extremes
excusing the most egregious of behavior.
However, extreme forms of self-centered behavior do not appear to
be productive. This should make many of us feel good. It is simply
untrue that only bad people succeed. Truly bad and dishonest people
often are found out and punished. I found it shocking that a young
man who was putting false information into chat rooms and then profiting
from the deception did not see his actions as wrong after the SEC
(Securities and Exchange Commission) stepped in. But the point is
he was caught and stopped despite his lack of understanding of what
he did wrong. Another example is Al Dunlap, who has been disgraced
and is being pursued legally for the terrible deceptions he tired
to get away with at Sunbeam.
Teamwork is a must
Finally, another constant is the emphasis on teamwork. Teamwork
has always been an important element of the workplace. But today's
complex working situations require an even greater need to work
well with a variety of other people. The lone ranger was never the
hero of the workplace and that remains the case today.
In summary, the workplace is harsher, tougher, more diverse, challenging
and fast paced. It also offers greater options, more flexibility
and greater tolerance for difference. People remain the constant
and are essential to any enterprise. Understanding camaraderie,
teamwork and the use of relevant emotional intelligence remains
key to success and satisfaction for anyone no matter what they are
doing. It is unrealistic to expect any business (except if you own
it) to focus on you and your needs. Business opportunities as well
as non-profit opportunities abound, but one has to work diligently
on hardiness and personal security to move ahead since the support
and help one might need is often unavailable. One has to work hard
to study the workplace and make informed choices.
Behaviors that support and those that detract from a happy and satisfying career
What are behaviors that seem to work today given the workplace
Successful behaviors, attitudes or skills leading to satisfaction
The most important tool for success is self-knowledge. This leads
to the understanding and pursuit of what is important without regard
for what is happening externally. Self-awareness helps prevent the
selection of a job that has too much stress or too little challenge.
Self-awareness helps avoid expectations that are unrealistic and
childish. If you want to be successful, have fun, feel fulfilled
and get the most out of your work, figure out who you are first.
Identify your strengths and limits, your goals and dreams and then
let these things lead you to meaningful work rather than external
conditions. Take charge of learning about yourself and then use
that knowledge along with your understanding of the workplace to
make the right personal choices.
The next behaviors that seem to help achieve satisfaction are flexibility
and nimbleness. Yes, you trained to be a programmer. But unfortunately
those jobs aren't available in the city you are in and health or
family issues prevent you from moving. What else can you do? How
quickly can you react to finding something different? How can you
find work that lets you use what you know to make a contribution?
Or, one can't find just the right job in a city he loves. What about
moving? The point is that happiness and satisfaction do not come
to those that are rigid and have to have things just a certain way.
Being able to roll with the changes and the complexity of the workplace
seems to lead to greater satisfaction and success.
Being a Team player
Being a team player and being seen as one is critical. People whose
only focus is their own career or their own needs tend to do less
well professionally than those whose focus includes the organization,
customers, colleagues and the web of folks whose work supports their
own. Of course one has to look out for oneself, but the lone ranger
is not a strategy for personal satisfaction nor is he someone who
others like, respect or want to work with.
Being a continuous learner
Being a learner and taking the time to continue to learn is a fundamental
skill of satisfied and successful people. There are more opportunities
than ever to learn-on the Internet, through books and articles,
seminars, therapy, in teams, with clients and other professional
colleagues. From deep learning to just keeping up with superficial
changes in one's industry the chances to learn are available in
abundance. But, unlike in the past, there may not be someone telling
you exactly what to study or where to go to learn what you need.
The new learner has to be on the look out for opportunities to learn
and grow. They have to analyze what they need to know and go to
the right sources for that knowledge. Knowledge is power and the
more one knows the more likely one is to recognize opportunities,
see the possibilities and understand the necessity of listening
to and growing with others. Take time to learn and enrich your mind
and your satisfaction will increase.
Proper people skills
Being properly people oriented is also related to success at work.
In some ways we have extremes in the workplace. Many baby boomers
are too people focused and find some of the more aloof styles of
the GenX irritating and upsetting. On the flip side, many GenX people
feel they don't want to be bothered by too much personal talk and
sharing while working. The best way may be a middle ground. Realize
that the diversity of the workplace both in terms of age, and in
every other way has made the people issue more challenging. Use
the flexibility mentioned earlier as a means to get along with a
wide range of people. People may vary in the types of attention
they require, but everyone does want that attention. Ignore people
at work and you will likely have problems.
Passion for what you do
Have passion. It is tough if you don't to get it, but nothing increases
satisfaction like passion for something. If you really believe in
what you are doing, if you really feel your work is making a difference,
or terrific fun, that enthusiasm and passion will lead to success
and satisfaction. Passion makes the inevitable problems less important
and the stumbling blocks a challenge more than a chore. If you have
no passion for what you are doing, it may well be time to move on.
Keeping your eye on the ball
Finally, I would suggest that a key skill or attitude is the ability
to keep one's eye on the ball-and having and sharing a common vision
with your colleagues. Are we here to make history? Are we here to
satisfy customers? Is the endgame nothing but filling up a lonely
and empty life? What are we really doing here and why are we doing
it? If you don't know the answer to that, stop and begin to reflect
on your work. There has to be something bigger than just "it's
my job" or "it's a living". If that something isn't
bigger than just personal gain, the likelihood of success diminishes
even further. Know what the endgame is and then take things in stride.
Nothing is the end of the world, certainly not something at work.
Behaviors, attitudes and skills that seem to hurt career satisfaction and success
Denial is not just a problem for personal issues. It is one for
business or career success and satisfaction too. If one is angry,
upset, out of control, sad or otherwise off balance personally,
this will definitely hurt one's career and career satisfaction.
Some folks just cannot see that they are in a job to prove something
to their parents, or to get back at a perceived hurt.
We see this type of denial on a large scale with organizations
like Napster. These were adults who could not see that stealing
music could be wrong. And, we see it on a personal level. Ralph
Nader did not understand how he might be perceived as a spoiler
in the election. These may be extreme examples, but to the point.
Denial is not a good strategy if one wants to be fully engaged and
The most recent case of widespread denial was in some new companies
who were wildly "successful" one moment and closed the
next. There were many that were abused and hurt in this process
and denial was often the culprit. The owners or investors did not
want to see that their plans were not going to work out. These people
often withheld vital information from others like their own employees.
There were companies assuring employees that "everything was
fine," while the company was days from closing.
Overly organized and too rational
Being overly organized, rational or abstract is a sure way to wind
up disillusioned and frustrated at work. Of course it is important
to be organized. It is also smart to look at things objectively.
But when one is obsessed by these things two things result: first,
the big picture gets obscured, and secondly, one becomes continually
frustrated because the truth of life's messiness and lack of logic
keeps hitting against the over reliance on "just the facts."
Things never were simple or black and white. To make things boil
down to just the rational facts and expect things to work that way
is a recipe for disaster. People, events, life, the market are not
purely logical, safe, organized and systematized. Long-term Capital
Management in Greenwich, CT. discovered that although having brilliant
theories may work in the abstract, they don't always work in the
real world. Stay anchored to reality and the entire gray area that
goes with life and you will be more likely to achieve greater success
and maintain an even keel.
Taking things too personally
Taking things too personally especially in a fast paced and often
cool workplace can be another hindrance to satisfaction and success.
People say and do insensitive things all the time. And, they do
them at work constantly. The pressure to perform and maintain the
satisfaction of clients can keep people juggling too many balls.
Joe did not forget to call you because you are not worthy-you just
didn't make Joe's radar screen today and it's as simple as that.
Mary doesn't think your ideas are without merit, she just is too
busy fighting fires in her department to give you any thought what
so ever. More than likely people are not only NOT out to get you,
they don't even remember you. Taking all this too personally will
make you crazy. Realize everyone is running at full tilt and take
NONE of it personally. It's easy to say and hard to do, but trust
me this is true. It is your responsibility to get the attention
you need and deserve. But realize that you are going to have to
be constantly pitching because the demands on people's time and
attention are increasing all the time. No, you are not alone in
thinking no one cares. No one cares except when they have to. Very
likely you are not responding as much as you should to others either.
Have mercy on your colleagues and then let them off the hook about
ignoring you. But keep pitching and trying to get the attention
you may need.
Missing the point of work
Don't miss the point. And the point is the goal of any business,
which is to meet customer needs and to get paid for it. Yes, that
is it. Businesses have to do things that people want to pay for.
And, your work is just part of the overall picture to make sure
that happens. As the CEO or the bathroom attendant, your role is
essentially the same. You have to do things all day long that help
make the business run smoother and more efficiently so that customers
can buy your organization's services or products and pay for them.
And, you have to help keep costs down and contribute to raising
customer satisfaction. Never, never lose site of this truth about
work. Your raise is not the point. Your career is not the point.
Your chance to work in Chicago is not the point. These are personal
goals important to only you. Show people that if you achieve these
things, the company will run better and the customers will pay more--then
you are in business. Miss the point and you may not achieve what
you are after and you may find yourself out of work too. Keeping
your eye on the ball creates satisfaction because it leads to opportunities.
If you lose site of the ball things will not go well for you or
the organization you work for.
Resisting change is another unproductive behavior. Not that you
have to embrace every crazy new approach that comes up, but being
resistant to basic changes in your field or industry can create
doom. You don't need all of the electronic gadgets out there, but
it is more than likely time to start using the Internet for more
than email. You don't need to jump on every leadership bandwagon,
but if the last book you read on leadership was when Jimmy Carter
was President it's time to move along. If you can't say you have
read anything new or significant since you left college or grad
school watch out. And if you find yourself saying, "there is
just too much change" be prepared for a gentle push in a direction
you may not want to go in.
Technology for technology sake
Technology for the sake of technology is always a dooming strategy.
No organization needs all the latest anything. It simply does not
make sense. Balance what is new with what is really needed for your
organization. Beware of being someone's experiment.
Confusing who you are with what you do
Finally, never confuse who you are with what you do. Yes, you are
a change agent or a super programmer or tester deluxe. But, you
are more, much more than that. Always be able to step away and know
that you could be fine doing something else if need be. It is the
same with a marriage or a friendship. It is good to feel you have
made the right choice of partner or friend, but it is not good to
feel you would die if you did not have a given relationship. Do
not ever believe that there could never be another work opportunity.
There are CEOs and CIOs too numerous to mention whom mistakenly
believed they were indispensable.
Work must have meaning for each individual: Strategies for Success
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of
their dreams," said Eleanor Roosevelt. And for those that seek
satisfaction and happiness at work, this is especially true. Having
a vision of what success looks like, and feeling drawn to accomplish
something is the surest way to be happy and satisfied with what
you are doing. We can all think of people who were driven to succeed
despite tremendous odds. These are the lucky people who just feel
a passion so deep for the work that they do that nothing can stop
them. For most of us the call is not quite as strong, but it is
still powerful. If there is no dream at all satisfaction will be
a rare occurrence.
However, in considering people who have been happy and satisfied
with their work and comparing those people to others who do not
seem to be, there appears to be several ways that work for different
types of people. Each of these strategies stems from the self-knowledge
mentioned earlier as an important component of success.
The four most common strategies for success are:
- Show me the money
- Personal Fulfillment
- One step at a time
- This, that and something else again.
My work experience has shown me that each of these can work depending
on the person and what they really want. Objectives are the core
issue. My experience has taught me that many people have never really
come to grips with this issue. They say they want money and what
they really want is power. Or, they say they want fulfillment and
are upset when someone else makes a great deal of money. If there
is any question worth reflecting upon it is the one that focuses
on what one truly wants to achieve. Here are four common career
strategies and some thoughts about achieving happiness and satisfaction
with them. These four strategies cover most people. I did not include
strategies such as power because they are not mainstream strategies
that tend to bring personal satisfaction and happiness.
Strategies for success
Show me the money
Clearly making a great deal of money is important for some people.
My guess is that many more people would be better off with this
strategy. Rather than doing something to make a great deal of money,
people just wish they made more money doing what they want to do.
This is both childish and silly. If you want to lead an exciting
life don't move to a small town with one restaurant and no theaters,
stores, museums or attractions. If you want to lose weight, don't
fill the refrigerator with cookies and ice cream. This is all pretty
basic. Wishing that teaching in a ghetto school, which is what you
want to do, should pay $100,000.00 a year is a good thought, but
it is unlikely. If you want the money then you'll have to switch
gears. But again, keep asking yourself what you want. You may really
not feel better making $100,000 if it means compromising some of
your values or leaving some things behind. But then again, you might
be. Only you can really know this and know this you should.
The most important person not to fool is you. Be realistic and
honest with yourself. If you need security be aware of that. If
you need excitement and challenge know that too. If you want to
work alone, if you need lots of people-all of these things are important
to know. Be ruthless on yourself. It gets tougher and tougher to
make changes in life and early choices matter. So try as hard as
you can to keep asking yourself what really matters. The answer
to that question will help you be as happy as is possible with your
career and work choices. To the extent that you fool yourself you
will be frustrated and angry about work as well as your personal
In this country the most lucrative careers are in entertainment,
financial services and many types of sales, brokering and consulting.
With a little effort one can figure out the types of job that pay
well and go after them. There is really not much mystery here. It
is not about luck; it is about choosing a career that pays well.
Now there are other ways to be wealthy and other ways to keep wealth
besides being in a high paying career. But if what someone wants
is to have a great deal of money there is absolutely nothing wrong
with pursuing that. The key is being clear about priorities. Will
money compensate for a boring, stressful or otherwise unfulfilling
job? Only you can answer that question.
Although it might be easy to dismiss this strategy out of hand,
there may well be something to the idea of making lots of money
for a certain amount of time and then later, once secure financially,
doing things for fun or self-fulfillment. No one can make this choice
for anyone else. This is a strategy that more likely works for those
who are young and who have the strength, endurance and flexibility
to work the long hours and meet the tough standards of work that
pays very well. Of course there are exceptions, but overall, the
decision to "go for the money" is a tough one to make
in middle or late middle age.
One of the most likely ways to find career success is by finding
something you love and doing it. There are many relatively low paid
people who just love what they do and have no regrets. Whatever
happens they know they are doing what they love-teaching, working
in a bank, being a tailor, a nurse, a police person, a corporate
trainer or a social worker.
But what if you don't have a real dream job? What if you went to
work for a large company not quite sure what you wanted, but knowing
you liked the idea of working with an established company that did
good work for example companies like Wal-Mart, Lucent, AT&T
or Johnson & Johnson? Then the dream job becomes being part
of the solution to make these places better-to make them more efficient,
better for customers and employees. If your work isn't doing that
it will likely be neither satisfying nor fulfilling.
Personal fulfillment comes from doing work that is meaningful.
And that meaning does not have to be profound to anyone but the
individual doing it. All types of work can and are meaningful if
they provide help and support to people, and if they are done in
a quality way. Personal fulfillment comes from doing one's best
work and doing it consistently. Here the reward is in knowing that
the efforts you are taking are making a difference in a way that
is meaningful for you.
People who find this fulfillment do not allow themselves to be
affected by petty politics and other natural parts of working with
others. Their satisfaction comes from internal rewards, not external
rewards such as power or money.
One step at a time
Different than either of the first two strategies, is the approach
that sees one's career as a series of steps and developments that
all lead to greater knowledge, personal professional power in terms
of knowledge and experience and increased responsibility. This type
of strategy works best for two types of people. The first are people
who might be interested in management and leadership. The skills
and abilities to manage and lead are often developed over a number
of years. In this case a person may see their career as a series
of positions some better and more enjoyable than others, but essentially
geared to gaining experiences and practice in a number of ways to
gain strength to do an ultimate job like being a CEO or a CIO.
This strategy is also used by professionals from technical consultants
to doctors who see their career in stages based on years of experience,
exposure to a variety of challenges and learning increasingly difficult
competencies. For most professionals this is one of the most likely
roads to feeling satisfied about one's career. By definition this
strategy brings perspective. Individual successes and even failures
are all seen as part of a larger tapestry of learning and acquiring
new skills and abilities. One looks ahead to varied challenges,
which are the result of gaining new and broader perspectives and
abilities. One doesn't expect to run the hospital or the company
at 28, rather one expects to grow and acquire greater responsibility
and challenge over time. In many ways it seems that this approach
is the sensible or most traditional road to success.
One of the dangers of this approach is the possibility that as
one grows and ages, opportunities may diminish. Where once the goal
of taking on more responsibility and challenge seemed real, the
reality is that one has been "passed over" or is now seen
as "irrelevant and no longer useful". But, if an individual
has set his or her sites on growth and development, and has developed
the personal qualities mentioned earlier in the article, it is likely
that if the original plan doesn't work, there will be new and different
opportunities available. The point is that this strategy works if
and only if the individual is truly growing and developing and keeping
track of him or herself. This growth leads the person to see new
opportunities as they present themselves and to avoid pitfalls that
may come to those that are less developed and aware.
This type of career may find someone beginning at a series of
corporate jobs, then becoming a consultant and finally working for
oneself at home. All the time this person has been gaining ground,
learning new things, adapting to changes and grasping opportunities
wherever they presented themselves. This is in contrast to the person
who is convinced that there is only one way and then find they are
at a dead-end and unsure what to do next.
This, that and something else again
There are those who never really have a career at all. They work,
they earn a living, but rather than finding a type of work, or an
industry to specialize in, they simple work to live rather than
the other way around. Early on they work at a corporation just because
their Dad worked there. After an early success and some good job
moves, the company goes out of business and they drift into a new
career in real estate since their old high school friend has an
agency and they think it would work out. After sometime at that
there is a move necessitated by a spouse's job and the next spot
is opening a boutique or working at home on the computer.
In every job there are challenges and fun and even some substantial
financial rewards, but no real career. Is this a mistake in terms
of satisfaction and feelings of success? Not necessarily if the
person has really spent time knowing him or herself and has selected
this career approach. Again, that self-knowledge becomes critical.
Work itself can be very rewarding no matter what it is. Just the
act of socializing, earning money and belonging can be enough for
some people. Not everyone should have a career. But, be aware that
the lack of a career can mean that the passion and excitement that
some people have doing work that is very important to them will
very likely not happen for this person.
This is the least likely way to achieve work satisfaction, but
not necessarily the least likely way to a happy and contented life.
In the end, one's overall satisfaction with life will stem from
many things and, for most people it will be from relationships,
family and friends. The person that has achieved career success
without any form of love and connection will very likely experience
less satisfaction than the person who has found love and continues
to struggle professionally.
The importance of reflection and action
If finding work that is satisfying and meaningful is important
to you, then commit yourself now to finding it. There are jobs out
there that matter and that could provide you with work that would
be powerful and satisfying. This is especially true for professionals
like those for whom this article is written that have education
and options. For these people the issue really is one of making
a commitment to finding the right place, and giving oneself the
time needed to find the best strategies for success.
Begin with reflection. Think about your current work and what
it means to you. Consider the pros and cons.. Ask yourself how much
you like to go to work and what really excites you. The answers
should begin to form a pattern. The key is not to rush into anything,
but to let the answers come to you slowly and quietly.
When you are ready to act in some way, here are some ideas based
on the article. There is no right or wrong way to this process.
The key is to proceed at your own pace and discover the ingredients
that will lead you to the right work and the right focus.
Develop yourself, especially your self-knowledge, which is your
guide to everything else. Remember to seek not to judge yourself,
to listen to your heart, to learn about yourself and your true
Become a learner-obtaining knowledge and skills in the needed
areas--from technology to people excellence. Keep at it.
Be flexible and open to ideas and possibilities that you may
have rejected in the past. "Never say never" should
be your rule. Maybe a new career, a move to a different part of
the country or an expansion of your responsibilities would be
just the right thing for you. Think about all your options.
Understand the world around you and your relation to it. Get
in touch with the new and changing world of work. Read about different
companies. Try to find out the trends in your own industry or
in industries that interest you. Learn what is going on in your
area of the country. Be open to information that might help give
you insight into the workplace that surrounds you.
Choose a strategy and work with it to achieve your own unique
form of work satisfaction. Don't model yourself after anyone else.
The experiences of others can be helpful since they can provide
ideas and thoughts. But ultimately it is your career and your
life. Choose wisely.
I firmly believe anyone can achieve a large degree of satisfaction
in their work if they are committed and persistent. Achieving success
has never been easy. To create a meaningful work life, it is important
to understand what is truly important and to maintain a course to
achieve it utilizing one's creativity and flexibility along the