There are so many ways we come into the world of work.
Some of us fall into a job, and then a career. Maybe we’ve been offered an opportunity by someone we know or choose work based on what other people have said we might be good at. Or, we might study something and end up somewhere else completely.
We might get lucky and land in a career we love right from the word go, but I’ll bet that most of us have to work a bit harder to find or create a career or working life that we love. I certainly did.
Something I find really interesting as a career coach, is considering the various paths people take in their working life. Are they making their work and career choices by design or by default? How active are they in carving out the career they want? How happy are they to leave their working lives to chance?
Most of us have to work rather than choosing to work, and work can have a significant influence on our overall wellbeing. We spend so much of our time working, so its important to at the very least enjoy that time. Even better is loving your work!
Although it’s not rocket science, if you’re not happy in your work there’s no quick fix and it will take some time and effort to make improvements.
Here are some of my top tips for how to love your work:
Align work to your strengths
Many of us are offered opportunities (or create them for ourselves) based on what we are good at. But it’s important to be aware that just because we’re good at something, doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable or engaging for us – in fact it could be just the opposite! We’ve talked about strengths before. Simply put, strengths are things we are good at AND that we find enjoyable/energising/engaging. As compared to skills, which although they are things we are good at, they might not be energising for us. This is a really important distinction when it comes to our working life. For us to enjoy our work, it needs to provide us with opportunities to use our strengths as often as possible, not just our skills. We also have to be in a position where we don’t have to draw on our weaknesses too often.
I nearly re-trained into project management instead of coaching. Looking back on it I now see what a huge mistake that would’ve been. Although it would’ve used some of my skills, it would have used virtually none of my strengths. It also would have forced me to focus on my weaknesses.
You can find out what some of your strengths are by taking one of the free online strengths profiles, such as the one on viacharacter.org or you gain a more in-depth and comprehensive picture through Strengths Profile (the strengths assessment tool I use with my own clients).
Ensure your work has meaning for you
What do you find interesting? What do you enjoy for its own sake? What purpose does your work serve – and is that meaningful for you? What is the bigger picture of the work or job? How well does that sit with you? These are all important questions to consider as you’re starting out in your career and also if you’re feeling career dissatisfaction and want to make some changes. Work that feels meaningless to you isn’t going to engage or energise you, so it will feel like you’re going through the motions.
Although I think it’s important to find work that has meaning for you, I would caution against focusing too much on “finding your purpose” and trying to build your career around that.
- Because what you might find meaningful or purposeful can change over time (and that’s perfectly normal)
- There are likely to be many things you find interesting and meaningful
- Striving to find “our purpose” can sometimes mean that we put so much pressure on finding the “one thing” we are “meant to do” with our lives that it can create a sense of anxiousness and dissatisfaction if we can’t find it. In reality, we are likely to find meaning and enjoyment out of many different things, which takes the pressure off finding that one thing.
Ensure the work fits with your values
You’ll intuitively know what’s important to you, if you take the time to stop and think about it. Justice, honesty, equality, competition, freedom, achievement, caring, fun – what are some of the things you hold dear? Getting yourself into a career, industry or workplace that fits well with your own values will make you feel right at home. On the contrary, you’ll feel like a fish out of water if this is not the case.
Pay attention to the industry or workplace culture
In some ways this relates to both our own and the industry or organisation’s values, but it is much more than this. How are things done in certain types of jobs and careers? How does that sit with you and how you like to do things? Do the two gel together or do they pull against each other and create a sense of having to “leave yourself at the door”? You’ll never do your best work if this is the case, and neither will you feel engaged while you’re doing it.
Take pride in your contribution
Most of us need to work in order to live, but are you proud of what you’re doing? I’m not talking about title, status or what you earn. I’m talking about the valuable contribution your work makes to a small, specific segment of society or a large number. When you’re proud of what you do, you’ll enjoy your work more, produce better quality work and others will take notice.
If you’re in the career doldrums and want some help identifying your own strengths, values and interests so you can love your work, contact firstname.lastname@example.org