Are you getting the most out of your job?

From a young age we’re often asked ‘what would you like to be when you grow up?’ The question implies that there is one magical job out there for each of us… all we have to do is find it. But as Emilie Wapnick explains, that doesn’t have to be the case. Some of us are Multipotentialites.

And so whilst some people have found the job they love (we applaud you) the rest of us have to grapple with finding out the areas we actually enjoy, and then do well enough to make a living out of it.

The trap is that we often chase those things in the opposite order; we choose a job that provides more financial security and looks good on a CV. Enjoyment of the role becomes the secondary factor. According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a field. So if you start a job doing something you enjoy, it’s going to take about six years to achieve mastery. In the grand scheme of things – that’s not all that long. It takes a similar number of years to get a degree or to complete an apprenticeship and then get settled into a job in one of those sensible areas that we think we ought to be in.

It usually takes a big life event, such as a grievance or becoming a parent, to shake us up and get us thinking about what it is we really want to be doing. Why wait?

Finding out what sort of job motivates you

Each time I fill out a personality questionnaire I learn something about the type of role or way of working that I’m going to get a kick out of. For example, working independently, I enjoy flexibility and not always knowing what’s around the corner. Other people love a routine and would shudder at the very thought of unpredictable work patterns!

Personality psychometrics summarise how you view yourself and provide a scientific way of evaluating your natural preferences. That information is gold dust. It allows you to understand your strengths and also the behaviours that do not come naturally. The more you understand yourself, the more effectively you’ll be able to decide how to get more from your current role – or if a change is needed, what sort of role and company will be best for you.

Another great resource for exploring what motivates you is Live Your Legend, set up by the late Scott Dinsmore. There are a bunch of great (and free!) tools to structure your self-reflections and one of my favourites is a spreadsheet that helps you to calculate what you need to earn to a) survive b) live a “good” life and c) live a “dream” life. This helps to clearly define the income you’re after rather than always simply chasing more money and more promotions. Scott explains Live Your Legend in this talk, and shares some useful food for thought on what you need to change to become passionate about what you do for a living.

Redefine what your job means to you

Finding work that gets you ticking doesn’t always mean changing your job. Redefining how you perceive your job and the impact you have can also increase motivation.

Amy Wrzesniewski has done some fascinating research into “job crafting” – the purpose that people identify for themselves by redesigning their jobs. Her US based research involved two hospital cleaning crews; one crew had lower levels of satisfaction and motivation for their work and when asked to describe what they do, they would more or less recite the job description. The other group of cleaners would describe different tasks, for example, noting if any patients seemed upset and doubling back later on in their shift to check in on them. That isn’t strictly part of the role, but by tweaking the tasks undertaken, this second group of employees could find a greater meaning in their work.

How you craft your job needs to be in alignment with what your company is trying to achieve (i.e. approved!) but it’s worth suggesting what you might do differently in your role if it’s going to be more engaging.

Whether you change your job, the tasks within your job or how you perceive the work you do, it all starts with a little self-reflection and committing to doing something about your conclusions.

Need help thinking this all through? Get in touch!

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