How Do You Know If You Are in the Right Job Now?
When the conversation about work and finding a new job comes up it is often with two very different and distinct frames of mind.
The first involves a level of challenge. You might think “I’ve been fired” or “I am about to be fired” or “my manager/employer makes me feel a specific kind of bad that is leaking out into the rest of my life”. It is clear cut, and you get the idea. The second is better understood as being unsure about how you feel. You might think “is it possible to be really happy at work?” or “am I the one who is the problem at work?” or “am I fulfilled by my work situation, without knowing it?”
Let’s consider that feeling of uncertainty. Because so many people fall into a job by chance, it can be difficult to figure out if it is the right job for us. But it is best to go back a little and ask yourself what you want in a job. Then you can figure out how your job matches with those priorities.
I cannot stress strongly enough that most people cannot find a job they like until they do the work of figuring out their priorities. If you find a job first, then you are likely to be unhappy or at least uncertain. Too many of us repeat the cycle indefinitely: We are uncertain, but we do not do the deeper work. Then we find a job. We are uncertain but we do not do the deeper work. Then we find another job. And so it goes.
To do the “deeper work” and get clearer on what is next, you need to rank a set of criteria you can use in vetting individual job or career options. They vary from prestige to a good boss to autonomy to flexibility to salary or a specific workplace culture, and so on. In most cases you can want, but cannot have, all of them. So the practice or ordering lets you determine where you place the most weight.
Sometimes, you’ve a small set of ‘most important’ items, but the collective rarely comes together. For example, it is unlikely that you can earn $150,000 a year working on art teaching in orphanages. So: What is most important? What comes right after that? Establish what is the priority right now and use that to guide your choices. And remember to avoid too much self-judgment as you do it.
Once you have done the ranking, then you can look more objectively at your current role to see if it is a good fit. You might decide it is not. Then you can find a job that might be a better fit. At least you will know what the right job is, so that you can position yourself to land it.
I frequently talk to people who reflect on good jobs that “went bad” and that continue to linger in their memory. But many of us occasionally find the odd “right job” by accident, too.
I recently had a call with a client who was in a well-paid role where they were in a secure leadership position and they had a very manageable schedule. Unfortunately, they no longer felt that they were able to be creative and take on the aspects of the work that could be compelling. So, they felt compelled, given the misfit with their criteria, to look elsewhere. Simultaneously, another client was extremely bored by her role, but she values salary and schedule flexibility to be available for her children above all other things. On that basis, her current role, while not perfect, best fits her overall goals.
Some people want work to take up very little space in their life but bring in enough money and require as little time as possible. They want to invest more of their time with their family, friends, or a hobby.
Look at your current job and reflect on whether those most important criteria of yours are being met. If they are not? Then you can be certain you would be happier elsewhere.
Some more questions to ask yourself include:
· Look ahead at the challenges to come. What are you excited about? What you will be doing and learning in the future?
· Do you feel valued and respected by your boss and colleagues? Do you feel the same way about them?
· Can you see the specific value that you bring to the role?
· Are you proud to share with others what you do, and where you work?
· How often do you consider a career trajectory in this company, or in this field?
Remember, too, that criteria change over time. I always want your work situation to be better, and that begins with knowing what you want. And, given how much of your time is spent there it is always worth investing that time to figure it out.
—Russ Finkelstein is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur, and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship, and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and his new book, "Let's Sort Out Your Career Mess, Together..." is forthcoming in 2021.