What?! Don't Look to Your Job for Fulfillment?

When I read Steven Polland’s advice in “Unconventional Career Advice You Need to Hear,” not to look to your job for career fulfillment and “you should focus on a career only as a stream of income,” my dander went up.  That’s what baby boomers, like me, have been told most of our lives and we’ve got the gray hair (maybe no hair), wrinkles, stress related health problems and burnout to prove we listened!  I had to remind myself the article says Steven is an 83 year old attorney (and working with attorneys for 25+ years I know they’re not always into fulfillment!) who must have grown up in an environment and at a time when not only career fulfillment but a variety of career choices was unheard of.

Thank goodness today’s career landscape is different. Today it IS possible for top-ban.gifboomers and job seekers of all ages to find fulfillment at work.  I, and the clients I work with are living proof.  Here’s how you can find it:

First, believe it is possible. You can either count yourself among the 47 percent of Americans who are unhappy in your job, complain about where you are and what you’re doing and believe you have to live that way, or you can believe it is possible to have both – career fulfillment and happiness in life.  One doesn’t exclude the other.  You can make what you want, happen.

Second, discover what fulfillment is for you. People I work with every day discover why they are unhappy at work and what elements are needed to be more satisfied at work and you can too. Many of them find this out through an assessment I offer, but you can embark on a do-it-yourself discovery adventure by writing in a journal about what makes you happy, or take inventory of what you like and don’t like doing and how happy you’ve been in previous jobs.  Finding fulfillment at work is much more than matching your skills and abilities to job functions and granted, it’s hard to find if you haven’t felt it in a long time.  A lot of different factors, your environment, your co-workers, your boss, whether you’re working in a team or alone, and how you derive accomplishment contributes to your overall career happiness or your dissatisfaction.

Sometimes discovering what fulfillment is for you means putting aside the advice of well-meaning family and friends about what you “should do” and with a trusted career adviser or coach, or on your own, doing some real soul searching.

Third, be proactive.  As Steven said in the article above, “your employer is not concerned about your fulfillment.” I agree. Your employer hired you to do a job.  If you want to find the right career it is your responsibility and you have to be proactive to take the steps to get from where you are now to achieve what you want from your career.  I help people design career paths to derive greater satisfaction from the job you’re in, or to build a bridge into a new career or job that better suits who you are.

And if your employer is smart your career fulfillment will be taken into account by making sure you’re a good match for the position you’re hired for and a good fit for the organizational culture.  Your employer will also provide you opportunities to learn and grow.  After all, dissatisfied workers contribute to negativity in the workplace and that affects overall productivity, morale, profitability and the well being of all.

What do you think?  Should your job provide career fulfillment?  Leave a comment below.