A career dream for most is having a job doing what you like, excelling at it and earning a rewarding income. While your job may meet some of those criteria, it’s hard to find a job that achieves all those things.
Which prompts the question, in your career goals, is it more important to focus on what you’re good at or what you like to do? Or can you really have it all? Career coaches offer their advice on job satisfaction, career growth and figuring out what a good job means to you:
Finding job satisfaction Early on in your career, you may not be completely satisfied with your job, but understanding the factors that go into your job satisfaction is important for workers at every career stage. You can begin by studying what decisions are affecting your job choice or the potential to change jobs.
“In an ideal world, career satisfaction would be an important factor in your job search,” says Laurie Berenson, president of Sterling Career Concepts LLC. “In reality, though, workers might consider making short-term sacrifices to ensure long-term career satisfaction or might be forced to pass up short-term satisfaction to make ends meet. Making decisions that are based on immediate career satisfaction might also be short-sighted when it comes to a longer career horizon. It’s important to balance both perspectives — be satisfied with what you’re doing today, and be satisfied with where you’re headed tomorrow.”
In order to find that satisfaction, consider what you like to do and what you’re good at and whether you get both out of your job. Are you waiting to gain more skills or earn additional income before making a move to something different? Also explore what makes you happy in a job. Are you just as interested in the people you’d work with as the work you’d do? How about your commute, important benefits or work flexibility? Understanding what you’d like can help you make that a reality in your current job or give a clear outline for jobs to consider in the future.
Dealing with dissatisfaction When there’s a disconnect between your satisfaction and your work, the first step in improving the situation is understanding why. “If you are unhappy with your current job or career, begin by reflecting on the reasons behind your dissatisfaction,” says Dr. Paula Thompson, career coach and founder of Foresight Coaching & Consulting. “Sometimes office politics and long hours are dragging you down, but often there is a mismatch between your work and what you find meaningful.” Thompson suggests focusing on three areas to provide clarity about what kind of work might be more satisfying.
First, examine your strengths. “Strengths are your natural talents and attributes, and they tend to show up in all aspects of life,” Thompson says. “For example, you may be good at taking care of people or applying sound judgment during decision-making. You can get in touch with your strengths by using free online assessments like VIA Strengths or by noticing when you are at your best and journaling what strengths you used.”
Next, consider your skills. “Skills are the competencies that you have developed over the course of your professional life,” Thompson says. “One of the biggest mistakes that people make is limiting their options by putting themselves in a box by saying ‘I’m a nurse’ or ‘I’m an accountant.’ Instead, make a list of transferable skills that can be used in many careers. Consider how you can rephrase a job-specific skill like ‘I prepare annual taxes for individuals’ to a more generic skill like ‘I am able to organize and make sense out of complex data.’”
Finally, include your experiences in how you look at your job. “Experiences are the events that become the stories we tell ourselves and others,” Thompson says. “When you are dissatisfied with your job, it can feel like you are always telling stories about how you are in a role that doesn’t seem to fit. This gap between the stories you want to be able to tell and the experiences of your daily work life creates an internal tension and a state of discontent. In career coaching, we encourage people to write the next chapter in their career biography, filling it with the kind of stories that demonstrate what matters to you. Being the author of your career biography puts you in the position to write the story you want to live.”
Everyone has a different idea of what makes up a good job. The key to finding job satisfaction and a happy work/life balance is to understand what’s important to you and how to bring that to your career.