If you’re contemplating a career change, chances are job satisfaction is high on your list of factors driving your decision. In fact job satisfaction – a measure of contentment with one’s job that considers work duties as well as work culture – is what determines whether people stay in a current position or start looking elsewhere. To be truly satisfied at work you should love what you do as much as you love who work with and the organization you work for. It’s a tall order but one that is worth pursuing because work can, and should, be a source of fulfillment not frustration.
Some people find a fulfilling career early on in their work life and others have to try on a few different careers before finding the right one. Acknowledging that it’s ok to seek change is an important part of your career journey. And remember too that career change can mean many things. It may mean a complete overhaul with a return to school or moving into a different industry, or it may mean changing roles and responsibilities within your organization. Whatever the change entails, here are some questions to ask yourself to help reignite your job satisfaction and invigorate your career.
1. Is it me, or is it the job?
Take some time for self-reflection and figure out what is underlying your desire for change. Are you feeling generally unhappy with life right now and think change is the answer? Or is it truly your job that is the source of dissatisfaction? Personal unrest like dealing with an illness in the family, experiencing a breakup, or moving to a new place can cause us to start thinking about making broad changes when what we should be doing is taking time for self-care. Consider taking holiday time, unpaid leave or even a sabbatical to figure it out.
2. Is it the job, or is it the organization?
A career change is a major decision. Take some time to think about whether the work you are doing is the issue, or whether it’s the culture at your organization. Job satisfaction is highly correlated with work culture factors like being part of a great team, feeling valued, getting recognized for your work, having opportunity for growth and development, and being treated fairly. If you aren’t experiencing this at work then maybe you need to join a different organization rather than switch careers.
3. What is and is not working in my current role?
As you think about a career change it’s important to understand what you like and don’t like about your current work. Think about what motivates and excites you. Do you like to be creative? Do you like working with people? Numbers? Do you like dynamic, ever-changing work or do you prefer stable routines? What level of interaction do you want or need with both external stakeholders and internal colleagues? Create a checklist with these elements and determine how well your current role meets your needs. If there are more gaps than matches then start looking at career options that will be more satisfying.
4. What am I really good at?
An important element of job satisfaction is doing something you enjoy, and typically that means doing something you do well. Struggling to produce quality work creates stress and tension for you and it leaves your boss and teammates frustrated. To identify your strengths think about the accomplishments have you been recognized for. What sorts of things do your colleagues ask your help with? How are these skills and aptitudes transferrable to other careers? And how can you be doing more of these things either in your current role or in a new position.
5. What is important to me aside from my career?
Your career is one aspect of your life and it needs to fit well with your overall goals and aspirations. Think about how well your job contributes to your general life satisfaction and what changes need to be made. Does your current career allow you to meet your family obligations? Are you able to achieve the right balance between work and the rest of your life? Are there enough career opportunities (upward or lateral) available? Does your current career or industry pay enough for you to meet your needs? These are important considerations when looking for a career that will provide you long-term satisfaction.
6. What are my values?
For the ultimate in job satisfaction, your career should align with your core values. When what you do day-to-day allows you to fulfill your greater purpose then work is a joy. Does your career help you express who you are? Does the organization’s purpose inspire and energize you? Take time to discover what makes you the happiest and consider what you would be doing if money didn’t matter or if family/community didn’t place any expectations on you. Prioritize you, and your career typically falls in line.
7. Can I afford to make the change?
In a perfect world, money doesn’t matter and taking it out of the picture helps to discover your values BUT, in the real world it does matter and no contemplation of a career change can be done without considering the impact on your ability to support yourself. Think about what steps you need to take to make the change happen. If you need more education or training, can you do that part-time or do you have to quit your current job and study full time? Will the new career pay enough to meet your financial obligations? Remember you may have to start at the bottom again and work your way up.
Job satisfaction is a noble pursuit and doing what fulfills you and excites you is important for your overall quality of life. As with all changes however, there are costs so it’s important to ask the right questions and take time to make a decision. Remember, job satisfaction is much more than your daily work routine and it’s important to factor in things like the people you work with, the culture of the organization you work for, and how well your current career fits with your life goals and how you want to live your life in general. You may need to make a drastic career change or you may find you can achieve job satisfaction with a few strategic tweaks in your current role so you can start doing more of what you love and value. Either way, the exploration is well worth the discovery!
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