Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Makes You Happy At Work?

Finally, I manage to log back on to my blogger… after 4 days of continuous no-success, and I had to get a few people involved before the access problem got resolved … Modern technology – you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it. Hah, what an irony!

Nonetheless, I’m back online again and this posting is to continue building upon where I left off on my previous article “What Career Is Right for Me?” As I have previously mentioned, there's nothing more challenging (or emotionally tearing) than changing careers half way through your life. Oftentimes, we find ourselves in a situation where we thought the job we chose was something we really wanted in our overall career roadmap, but as time goes by day by day, we find ourselves becoming more and more unhappy.

If we are unhappy, we know we’ve made a wrong choice. Now, the question is – how do we work out what we really want and what is that ideal job that goes with that territory? Here're some suggested ways and means to start formulating an answer to the above question (extracted in part from CareerExec International's Career Transition Program).

Ways & Means Number One: Understand why you are unhappy in your job

Good information comes out of understanding why you are currently unhappy in your job, and in my experience there tend to be six reasons why this is so. Which ones are relevant to you?

Your job is boring and unchallenging

This is often the case when people have been doing the same job for a long period of time, and colleagues and bosses can quickly forget that you have more to offer.

Dealing with difficult people

Often it’s not the specific tasks of a job that are stressful it’s the people you have to deal with that make life so difficult. Colleagues, bosses, clients and suppliers can all be difficult to get along with or be unreasonable in their demands.

Too much politics

It’s hard enough dealing with difficult people directly without having to deal with underhand politics as well. Even though it would be nice if everyone just got on with each other and did their jobs, the bad news is that politics will always happen.

You’re doing the wrong job for your personality

Imagine someone who likes working with details, such as an accountant or an engineer, suddenly being asked to take on a role in sales or a people management role with no additional training or support. You may feel that you just don’t “fit” into a role and that extra training just isn’t the answer.

A sign of other issues

If you’re unhappy in your job, it could be a sign of unhappiness or stress in other areas of life leading to a reduced ability to deal with what could be normal levels of pressure at work. Issues such as strained or failing relationships, poor health or money worries can all have a huge impact on your feelings of satisfaction with work.

Your work is just not your passion

It could be that although you are doing well in the eyes of other people, your work just isn’t what you are passionate about. Lots of people have a dream to do something that is really meaningful to them, but they are too scared to take a first small step to achieving that dream, or just don’t know how to start.

Ways & Means Number Two: Understanding yourself
To understand what work would be ideal for you, you really do have to understand yourself first, and in four key areas – your work interests, work motivators, your personality preferences and your personal and professional values.

Your work interests

These are the things that interest you in the world of work. Do you enjoy adventurous and risk taking activities or are you more interested in things like science and technology? Do your interests lie more in finance and administration or in working with words and being creative? Do you enjoy managing, organizing and getting results through others or do you have an interest in caring activities?

Your work motivators

These are the things that really drive you at work. For example how driven are you for recognition at work, or the need for responsibility, having control over your own work and being accountable for your actions? How much do you need variety and change in your work, or are you motivated more by stability and security? Are you driven by the need to excel in what you do and to find new challenges to overcome or do you prefer to have friendly colleagues at work? How motivated are you by your interest in the work that you do, or is pay and other material rewards a key motivator?

Your personality preferences

These will impact on how you prefer to work, and therefore your choice of ideal job. For example, are you good with people and do you gain energy by being with them, or are you good with ideas, precision and complexity and prefer to think carefully before acting? Do you prefer to deal with facts and reality; are you objective and analytical in your decision-making and do you find it hard to relax until your work is completed? Or are you imaginative and sensitive to the needs and motivations of other people, and flexible, adaptable, research-oriented and tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty well?

Your personal and work values

A personal value is a belief, a mission, or a philosophy that is really meaningful to you. When you are engaged in activities that support your values, you will feel most like yourself. If your job does not allow you to do this, the outcome for you will be significant stress and frustration. In addition, studies of successful individuals have found that there tends to be one or two professional values that guide their career and job choices, and make working an enjoyable and ultimately successful experience.

Ways & Means Number Three: Your ideal work/life balance
Work is of course only one aspect of your life, but there is often confusion when mentioning work/life balance. People seem to think it means there should be an equal balance between the two. This is not necessarily the case – having an effective work/life balance is about what works for you, perhaps there will be periods of time where your focus will be more on work than on your personal life, and vice versa.

This is why you need to know how your ideal job will fit in with your other priorities in life. You need to be clear on what else you want to focus on in your life, and what financial and time commitment you are prepared to give to them. Whatever is important to you, for example your health, family, friends, personal relationships or hobbies, your ideal job will need to take these factors into account.

Ways & Means Number Four: Understand your options

Knowing what you need from a job to make it ideal is only one half of the answer. The other half involves understanding what, realistically, your job options are.

Transferable skills

You must identify the skills and experiences you have that potential future employers will be prepared to pay you for. After all, they will only hire you if they have a need for the skills you can bring to them. These aren’t only the jobs that you have done, but are the activities and behaviors that you demonstrated to make you successful in your previous roles.

Strategic career choices

Rather than just look in the newspaper or online to see what jobs are available, it is useful to think strategically about your career options. Inevitably, your ideal job will entail making use of your existing or newly developed skills within existing or new industry sectors.

For example, you could continue with a career within your existing areas of knowledge and competence, stay where you are in terms of industry sector and organization and look for a shift in the type of job that you do, carry on with the job you do in a different sector or environment or throw caution to the wind and follow a long-held dream or passion!

Ways & Means Number Five: Find that Ideal Job

Once you have done all the above, you now need to distill the information into a great CV. A CV that crisply and concisely articulates your skills and experiences to your future employers in a way that demonstrates that you understand the job that needs to be done, that you fit in with their company culture and that you have the experience and the skills to succeed in the new role.

To do this you will also create a personal positioning statement. This is, in effect, a personal "elevator pitch" in which you can start to tell your friends, your network, recruiters and potential employers exactly what job you're looking for, give them a relevant overview of your skills & experiences and tell them why you want to do the job you're looking for. The secret here is to create several different CVs and personal positioning statements, each one consistent with what would be an ideal job for you, but each one subtly different in its job focus.

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