What must you have in your life to be fulfilled?
Is it having a fancy job title, climbing the corporate ladder, earning a certain salary, holidays in the sun or achieving recognition for your work… or something else altogether?
The world of work has changed over the last few years, particularly as a knock-on effect of the COVID pandemic and unsurprisingly, it’s left many reflecting on their priorities and questioning what it means to feel fulfilled in their careers.
Perhaps the job they once loved doesn’t feel like them anymore or the seemingly ‘perfect’ job on paper that appears to tick all the boxes, isn’t matching up. The problem is they’re unhappy and they can’t put their finger on why.
Research from PwC earlier this year highlighted that 20% of employees in the UK (that’s one in five!) will look to change jobs in the next 12 months but more importantly, finding meaning and fulfilment in their work was just a priority as getting paid more. And as the predictions suggest, this trend is set to continue. More and more people are re-evaluating what this looks like for them and are going in search of finding more purpose, happiness, and satisfaction in their careers.
So, what does this look like for you?
If you’ve found yourself contemplating a career switch up and wanting more out of your job, you may be struggling to answer this question yourself. The challenge many face is that they simply don’t know what they really want.
The reason for this is that we rarely take the time to reflect and think about what brings us joy, what motivates us and excites us as well as the things we loathe doing, have no interest in getting better at or really grate on us! As we get older, our priorities shift. Each new experience we have shapes us and our perspective on situations may change.
Fulfilment and job satisfaction are made up of a combination of factors. If any of these are off balance, you’ll be experiencing that niggle that something needs to change.
What influences job satisfaction and fulfilment?
There are two main areas all coaches ask their clients to reflect on when they start working together. These are values and strengths.
Values are the things that are important to us. They are the things that drive us and guide our decisions. When they are met, we feel a sense of well-being and balance. When we do not live by our values or there’s a mismatch in our careers, this can feel very uncomfortable. It can lead to feelings of frustration, anger and resentment and a sense of feeling unfulfilled. These can be internal values, such as being able to learn new things, feel challenged, have autonomy in your work and even be creative. These values can also be external. These may include things like flexible working patterns, a high salary or having a short commute.
Once you’ve identified what your values are and what’s important to you, these can become a point of reference when looking for new roles and used to determine if a job is currently or will be the right fit (even if at first it looks great on paper!) Identifying your values can also increase your confidence as you know exactly what you want and you will be able to make decisions with more assurance.
Our strengths on the other hand, are more than just what we’re good at. As strengths guru, Marcus Buckingham says,
“Strengths are not activities you’re good at, they’re activities that strengthen you”.
This is one of my favourite quotes I use with clients.
In my experience, many of us can’t name what our strengths are. When something comes easy to us, we tend to downplay them and assume everyone else must be able to do it like us too. For some, speaking in front of a room full of stakeholders may be a walk in the park but to others, it’s their worst nightmare.
Chances are if you’re using your strengths, you’re in flow and it will feel effortless and easy. And the brilliant thing is our strengths are infinite! There is no ceiling, cap, or limit to what you are great at. We are also much better off maximising what we’re great at than trying to improve our weaknesses. We may only ever be able to improve on these marginally so finding opportunities to use more of our strengths in our work is a no-brainer. The key is really understanding what our super strengths are and then leveraging those every day. Seeking out those opportunities to use your strengths more.
There are many other factors that will influence job satisfaction and fulfilment such as boundaries (or lack of them), achieving the right balance, the capacity to learn, grow and develop, feeling valued and respected as well as being in a safe working environment. The importance of these will all largely be influenced by what your values are and what drives you.
What influences job dissatisfaction and feeling unfulfilled?
When there’s a mismatch, not only can it lead to unhappiness, resentment and that feeling of being unfulfilled, but it can also lead to confusion, especially if you don’t know where it’s coming from. If you’ve not worked on identifying your values or your strengths, it can be hard to pinpoint what needs to change.
On top of this, job dissatisfaction can stem from issues surrounding career progression and advancement, lack of connection or poor workplace relationships, not feeling appreciated or valued as well as jarring in company culture or leadership approaches. If you’ve ever had that niggle where something doesn’t sit right with you, you’ve probably had a clash in values!
It’s why, as a coach, exploring and identifying those values and strengths is one of the first exercises we do. It allows you to not only reflect on what is important to you, but you can identify where these fall short in your current role as well as pinpoint whether it’s small changes, a new role or a whole new career that will give you that meaning and fulfilment back.
How can I feel more fulfilled in my career?
I don’t believe that getting started with your next career chapter is all about updating your CV, LinkedIn profile or perusing the job boards for inspiration. And sadly, there’s no magic formula or big secret reveal! It starts with curiosity and learning and most importantly, understanding yourself! You have the answers within you. It just takes a bit of exploration, examination, and openness to find them…
Here are some ways in which you can get started on that journey:
1. Explore your values.
One way to discover your values is to reflect on your career highs and lows and what the contributing factors were to this. Think about what these can indicate about your values and their importance of them to you. Perhaps you have enjoyed mentoring your team or sharing your knowledge – this could mean motivating others, leadership or learning and development are important values for you. Likewise, if you’ve had a negative experience where you didn’t feel valued, perhaps appreciation or recognition is a core value for you.
You can also complete a free online values assessment like this one or review lists of values like on James Clear’s website and jot down those that resonate with you the most.
It’s also important to remember, that whilst our values are fairly stable, these can change over time as we experience new things. Your career priorities and what’s most important now may have shifted from 5 years ago. It’s why values work is something we should all reflect on regularly.
2. Explore your strengths and what you’re brilliant at.
Using your strengths daily will bring you energy and the feel-good factor. Think about what you enjoy doing the most in your career and what comes easy to you. What feels effortless? What do others come to you for? Is it you’re a whizz on Excel and data tables? Do you have the ability to see the big picture and offer new perspectives that perhaps others can’t see? Are you able to influence others and motivate them to take action? We may not see all of our strengths ourselves, so a useful tip is to ask others for feedback.
Simply ask 5 people who know you well (it could be colleagues, managers, or friends) to describe you at your best (even better is to make a list yourself and see how your lists compare after – do they match) – see if you uncover any surprises!
I also recommend this strengths assessment by Marcus Buckingham.
3. Master your mindset and be curious.
With change comes uncertainty. And with uncertainty comes those little mind monkeys telling you to play it safe, it’s too late or it’ll all go wrong anyway! Your beliefs shape your actions. Challenge them! Change your perspective of failure to growth and learning. Nurture a growth mindset of curiosity. Be open to new opportunities and new challenges. It’s the actions you take next that are the most important. You are in control and usually, it’s those first small steps and change in thinking that can have the biggest impact.
All of us have a unique set of experiences, skills, and talents (and, crucially, the power!) to create a ‘perfect’ role. One that aligns with our values and makes the best of our strengths. One that will give us the job satisfaction and fulfilment we are seeking. Increasing your self-awareness and learning about yourself are all part of the journey.
This blog post was written by Anna Hewitt, career and leadership coach.
You can find out more at https://www.stepsintostrides.com/ or book a 30 min discovery call at https://calendly.com/anna-stepsintostrides/clientdiscoverycall_30mins?month=2023-01
January 9, 2023