What do you really want in your career? Tough question, right? I’ve asked myself that many times over the past few years, only to completely discombobulate myself with how I would answer it. I always went down the route of thinking about the promotions that I wanted without giving proper thought as to whether those options were really truly suitable for me longterm. My thought process was, “When I make it to this level, things will be better”. That’s because, honestly, I didn’t really know what was truly suitable for me. And for this reason, I was falling into the expectation trap. That trap where you start doing things in a way that you feel you “should” be. This is easy to do when we don’t have much guidance on how to truly take the time to dig deep into ourselves for answers.
It can feel overwhelming when we start trying to figure out what suits us but patience is key. So for the moment, in this blog post, I’m going to break it down into three simple categories – career values, work environment, and strengths/skills.
I had a vague notion of values throughout my life but never really gave serious thought to them until a couple of years ago. However, once they came into my world I wasn’t sure how I’d managed to get this far without acknowledging them! Values are those inherent and fundamental beliefs that we all hold. When something goes against our values, we feel out of sorts, frustrated, angry. When something is aligned with our values, we feel purposeful, joyful, content. And this is a very important starting point when it comes to our work.
Once we can identify the values that are most important to us, only then can we truly find ways to increase our job satisfaction. All well and good, but how do we go about identifying our work values? One way to do it is to take a look at the following list of career values and ask yourself whether that value is extremely important, important, or not important to you.
- Add your own to this list
Then narrow the extremely important values down to your top 6. Once you have your top 6, ask yourself how you can weave these values into your working life and align with your company values?
Similarly to our values, having a work environment that suits our wants and needs can help us thrive and brings job satisfaction along with it. Naturally when we are in environments that stifle us, we cannot do our best work.
But how can we identify what work environment will stifle us versus one that will help us thrive. Well, identifying work values as outlined above is a great start. After this, it’s important to start thinking about what elements of a role and organisation will be essential to your satisfaction. To do this, identify your likes and dislikes about previous roles. What about the culture, benefits, job elements, team do you want to have as an essential in your current / next role and what do you want to avoid in future? Be specific and honest with this so you can truly figure out what will work for you going forward. We will likely never find a workplace that fits 100% of our wants and needs but a workplace that fits 70% and above is a great outcome.
Strengths & Skills
When it comes to building career confidence, knowing our strengths and skills is crucial. A lot of us haven’t taken the time to think about what we have a natural affinity for, what we have built up due to our experiences, and what knowledge gaps may exist. Being able to understand what strengths and skills that we enjoy using versus ones that we would rather leave behind us can go a long way in helping us cultivate career satisfaction. Once we have defined our key skills, we can identify ways to either incorporate these into our daily life or start searching for work that allows us to develop the skills that will bring us the most joy.
A simple exercise to identify skills that you are proficient in, is to think of big achievements and challenges in your career to date. Of these big achievements and challenges, ask yourself what you brought to the table to make them a success and overcome the obstacles. Write down what skills you enjoyed using in those moments, and what skills you would prefer not to have to use again?
Of course, there are far more elements that go into job satisfaction but to me, these 3 points in getting to know what we really want are key in making better career decisions. Having gone through this process myself, I am now better prepared to avoid the expectation trap and try to choose outcomes that support my job satisfaction. Take the time every few years to identify what is important to you and I guarantee it will stand to you in every future career move.