Your Path to Career Satisfaction

A career is defined as “a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional or business life”[1], according to Marian-Websters dictionary. Everyone is at a different point in building towards his or her career satisfaction. Some are just beginning. Some are finding that they need a change due to lack of satisfaction. Of those already in a career, 53% are not satisfied with it, based on a 2011 U.S. Conference Board survey[2]. No matter which point we are at we can always improve our chances of doing what we love and finding career satisfaction[4]. The keys that I will discuss are to understand the career path, take a holistic approach and get into action.

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Understand the Career Path

Understand what it is you would like to do that will lead you to career satisfaction. This may sound simple but may not be as simple as you think. Many have a very romanticized view of what that field will look like.

For example, a very popular career is that of a consultant. A consultant is seen as an expert who gets paid well to provide expert opinions and feedback. This sounds great from the surface. People pay you to tell them what to do. Although this is true in essence, most people looking at this career do not realize that a good portion of a consultant’s time is spent in a sales role. A consultant must sell their services as any salesperson does. If you do not enjoy sales being a consultant may not be a good fit for you.

When you are choosing a career path you want to ensure that you know what it will look like in as much detail as possible. You will want to find out what a typical day looks like in your first year, second year and even five years in. I say this as the nature of your day may change over time. Also, you will want to find out what specific skills drive success in the chosen field. For example, you may find that management skills are the biggest driver of a career in engineering rather than the technical knowledge itself.

Something else to consider in your future career is the lifestyle that will come with it. Given your choice, will you have to live in a certain area such as a large city or a remote village? These both have implications, which are important to consider. How much traveling will be required?

Something else to consider is the trend in industry culture towards work life balance. Is is typical to work 80 hour weeks or more towards flexible 40 hour work weeks. Manny times, work hour expectations are not as obvious as you may think. Roles within a career path may not list that 80 hours per week is expected but chances are if any sort of bonus or commission is involves you will typically be working beyond a 40 hour work week.

So now that I have given you a number of questions, how do you answer them? From what I have seen, the only way to truly have these questions answered is to ask someone who is specifically in the career path you are looking to get into. I recommend speaking with 3-5 people to really get a clear idea. This may sound like a great deal of work but this extra time up front will save you a great deal of time, money and dissatisfaction later.

Take a holistic approach

Now that you have determined your career of choice, how do you build towards it? There are three critical aspects to career development. These three aspects are all equally important and act as spokes of a bicycle in that if one is neglected your journey will be dramatically impeded. These three aspects are education, experience and network building.

Education is generally something most consider important in career development. We have moved to a society where going to University or College is just the next step after high school. Also, often when we are thinking of careers in later life our first thought is which credentials we need and what schooling is needed to attain these credentials. This is absolutely important just be sure that you have a specific idea of which career you would like to end up in before investing time and money into education. Too often I see time and money being invested and the end goal determined later.

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Experience is often neglected. When I say experience I mean actual work hours that are paid or unpaid in the industry where your intended career will be. A good test of whether something qualifies as experience is to think, can I put this on my resume? If yes, then it qualifies.

The importance of experience in creating career satisfaction is twofold. On one hand it helps you to build your resume with relevant experience, which will be critical when you are seeking your first role in your new career[5]. To be able to acquire this experience you may need to look to your network, which I will describe in the next section, and be willing to volunteer. Often your first role in the field you are looking at will not be what you would like to end up at but keep in mind that career satisfaction often a longer term strategy and keep working at it. On the other hand, experience is a great test of how much you enjoy the career you are pursuing. 

Network building is often considered to be the most important aspect of career buildingAccording to Jodi Glickman, in her Harvard Business Review Interview, job boards are just the pre-work and information gathering aspect of a job search[3]. Manny jobs are never posted or, if it is posted, many times company already a candidate in mind but need to post a job as part of their process. The only way to truly keep your doors open to opportunities in your chosen filed is through your network. Network building is often made out to be more complicated and, therefore intimidating, than it needs to be. Building your network is simply a matter of finding out where those who are in the career you are pursuing congregate. Are there any industry events or trade shows? In many situations Universities and Colleges will have Alumni networks with those happy to mentor someone looking at their specific career.

Network building is much easier than it ever has been before with all of the social media venues available. Linked In is the best conduit for networking for career purposes. Linked In also allows you to look up the companies that have positions that fit your career and see who you know in those companies before you have to meet anyone in person.   

Get into Action

Now you ask, where do I start? As Keith Ferrazzi recommends, in his famous book Never Eat Alone, make a list with two columns. The first column should be titled “what do I enjoy” and the other column should be titled “what am I good at”. Begin filling these columns in on your own and then ask a handful of your closest personal and professional contacts to help you fill out the list. Begin the process of finding at about a career that includes both something you like and something that you are good at[6]. Most importantly, have fun.