Tag Archives: job satisfaction

Job Fit Can Make Your Dream Come True

happy manI’ve been interviewed on several “how to find your dream career” podcasts lately and thought I’d share the advice I keep giving on these shows.

Yes, of course, it’s good to find a career that aligns with your interests, but that won’t ensure satisfaction. A statistics professor once told me how miserable he was in his career. He loved statistics but disliked being a professor. He was an extreme introvert who was dreadfully uncomfortable lecturing and interacting with students. He had felt he should become a professor to be a respectable professional. Continue reading Job Fit Can Make Your Dream Come True

What Is Success?

measuring successHow do you measure up?

“What’s your number?” One executive asks another, engaging in the not-so-subtle competition of whose is bigger. I am a woman so I don’t get asked this question very often. Rather, it’s about my children. “How [successful] are your kids?” That’s the prototypical question for moms. The list goes on and on depending on who and where you are in life—grandchildren, job title, cars, jewelry, sports, sexual conquests, you name it.

Social Comparison Theory suggests that we compare ourselves to others to evaluate ourselves. That sounds like a reasonable goal, but it often turns into a competition to allow us to feel good about ourselves. We strive for self enhancement by “one upping”—saying that we’ve done something better than the other person. It can be a faster car, a bigger house, a higher salary, or a kid in a better college. The SNL character, Penelope, provides an exaggerated example, which is extremely funny to watch.

What are you measuring?

money weighing you downThe point is not necessarily how you measure on these comparisons, but what measures you are using. More precisely, whose measures are you using? Yours? Theirs? Society’s? Your parent’s? If you’re like most of us, you find yourself getting tricked into being measured on someone else’s scale.

I was in a meeting to plan the next Berrett-Koehler Marketing Workshop and we grappled with the question of what it means to be a successful author. Is it the number of books sold? The amount of money made from book sales? The quantity of business generated as a result of writing the book? The impact made on society from the book’s message? Fame? Or simply the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of writing a book? It really depends on what the author defines as success (which may be different from the publisher’s definition).

How do you define success?

helping holding handsIn the end, success boils down to how you define it. As we progress through life, we tend to realize that other people’s definitions of success don’t necessarily resonate with our own ideals. Laura Garnett asked several successful CEOs to state their definitions of success in a recent article in Inc. They vary widely and include such things as accomplishments, impact on the world, happiness, family, helping others, balance, fulfillment, and legacy. What is your definition of success?

Here are four questions to ask yourself to help you define success in your own terms.
  1. What are your core values? What do you need to do to be true to them?
  2. What’s important in your life?
  3. What legacy would you like to leave?
  4. When you are 90 and looking back on your life what would you like to say? What would you regret not having done?

I’d love to hear what you define as success and other questions you ask yourself to come to your definition.

How Meaningful Is Your Work?

meaning of life cartoonHow meaningful is your work? How meaningful do you want it to be? In a recent Gallup poll, 70% of people said their work was not meaningful. On the one hand, that number is alarming. Seventy percent of workers spend half of their waking hours doing something that brings no meaning. On the other hand, should our work be meaningful?

At a very minimum, our work is meaningful because, for most of us, it enables us to feed, clothe, and house us and our families. For many of us, it gives us purpose and focus. We have to get up in the morning and be somewhere and do something. Without that, we often become aimless and dissatisfied.

And then there’s the question of whether we live to work or work tomeaning of life cartoon 2 live. Some say it’s a generational thing—that Baby Boomers live to work while Millennials work to live. I actually don’t see it that way. Yes, Millennials want to have more balance in their lives. However, Millennials are increasingly demanding that their jobs have meaning and that their companies are socially responsible. In this sense, their jobs bring greater meaning, doing something that reaches beyond themselves.

I ask you to think about your work—deeply—and contemplate how much meaning it really does have. I think all of our work has meaning in one way or another. A bus driver enables people to get places. A web designer helps people communicate messages. A word processor may even help save lives, especially if he or she works for a company that builds medical devices, or a shipping company that delivers life-saving equipment to hospitals, or a law firm that litigates tort law, or a school department that educates children and keeps them off the streets.

I watch the elderly people in my neighborhood at the local grocery store some days. For some folks, getting dressed for an outing and walking into a store are big accomplishments. Interacting with the store clerk may be the only social interaction they have that day. A store clerk who is cordial, maybe even chatty or helpful, may bring deeper meaning into a person’s life than the clerk could even imagine.

meaning making illustrationThe meaning is there. You just have to find it. You don’t have to be a world-renown leader to have an impact on the world or to have meaning in your work. This is especially important for young people to understand to take the pressure off of “achieving greatness” at the expense of health and happiness. For the rest of us, dig deep and find the meaning that is already there.

Forget Physical Fitness, Get the Right Job Fit!

happy face in sad facesOne day, I was called in to give feedback to a company’s leaders on one of their directors who had been through our assessment center. The meeting was curious to begin with, since exceptionally high-level people were there. The meeting was called unexpectedly after being put off for months after the completion of the assessment center program. But, being a consultant, I was used to flexing to the whims of clients.

Within minutes, it was clear the meeting was not a typical collaborative evaluation of an executive, with people from inside and outside of the company bringing their observations to the table. It was a meeting to develop a case to fire the director for not being able to manage the relationships in a business alliance under his charge.

The director was a smart, talented technical expert. He was not, however, skilled at building rapport and managing conflict. In the field, we call this a “derailing” factor. In other words, he was derailed from his upwardly mobile track because he did not have people skills.

This is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence in organizations. It would have been better for the director if he had learned people skills or, even better, taken a job that better leveraged his technical skills.

I coached another mismatched director—a very smart and talented woman who was an extreme introvert, who preferred to work alone. You can only imagine how absolutely miserable this woman was, when her job was to manage personal relationships among her team, her peers, and the board. She was desperate to change jobs without burning any bridges in the process. Unfortunately, this is also a common occurrence, especially in technology-based companies.

Sometimes it is not about competence, but it is about job fit. The earlier you learn that, the less time you waste in unpleasant job situations.

Job fit is important at all levels in an organization—manager, employee, consultant, business owner, and so on. College students choose “majors,” fields of study that hopefully hold their interest and in which they get good grades. Of equal or greater importance, however, are the work environment and tasks associated with a particular job.

For example, I had planned to be a therapist before I applied to graduate school in psychology. But after talking to a couple of therapists, I found out that it was a very passive job, where you sit in a room all day and wait for people to come to you. It was not at all a good fit for me. I was so glad I had done the research ahead of time to learn what the work environment was like. I recommend you do the same.