For most of us, we have ambitions and career goals that fill our mind with drive, motivation and the fuel to do things beyond what we are doing now. These goals become the compass for our decisions and in achieving them, they are supposed to make us feel fulfilled.
The interesting part about achieving goals, particularly in the context of our career, is that our fulfilment can drop very quickly after accepting a promotion or taking the ‘next step’ in our career. We have a spike of happiness and a feeling of satisfaction from the “you got the job” discussion, and recognition of what we have done in the past. We become excited in the belief others have in our potential to take on more. Even better, the first few months, or even a year in the new job can be refreshing, exciting and what you were looking for. The question is, how long does this feeling last?
In our head, some of us almost instantly start building a plan for the next goal or stage of our evolution. It is our brain that builds expectation into what we should become and what our future state looks like. Without this, it can be very difficult to have direction.
At the same time, this expectation reduces our appreciation for what we have achieved. We can quickly become sucked into frustration about the new set of challenges, and after adjusting our lifestyle to the new income and job, the next goal becomes more important.
Consider the number of people that have achieved the career goal they set out to reach over the last few years. For those that have achieved it, most don’t measure themselves a "success" from their new title or seniority. Usually they have recalibrate their goals and are seeking another form of gratification – the next promotion, the next company, the right lifestyle or balance, the right level of wealth and other goals. Expectations that fuel the next phase.
The downside of promotion is that it will not always fulfil us in the long term. The promotion itself will provide gratification that we have met an expectation of ourselves, although it will often lead us to recalibrating the next phase of our journey. The next win.
If this is the case, how do I make sure my career is fulfilling?
If a promotion doesn’t keep us continually satisfied, then should we aim for promotion? Should we maintain our ambition? Should we set goals?
The answer is YES. Instinctively we are designed to build a view of where we belong in the world and reach the expectations we set for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with this and it is very normal. However, at the same time, the the true fulfilment that many career professionals have is when they appreciate the journey.
Appreciation is often an under-rated concept when considering career and personal development. We spend energy on the expectations we set for ourselves and the person we want to become, but often forget the gift of experience that we gain along the way, the people that support us, and the relationships we build. Showing gratitude for this changes our perspective about tough times, challenges and the need to be resilient as we move up the corporate ladder.
Appreciating what we have can be a tough ask, especially if we are not feeling great about our job or the lifestyle it provides.
Here are seven tips to put into practice, designed to make your career more fulfilling, and usually lead you to the achievement of your goals at the same time.
- Challenge yourself to be grateful for the opportunities that are presented to you, even when they are difficult, new or frustrating. They are often the most fulfilling.
- Appreciate the people that work for you, even when they would do things differently to the way you would. This difference can hold the key to capability you don’t have and new perspective to keep you honest.
- Take time to look at how far you have come. You don’t need to daydream about how awesome you are, but put value on everything you have learned and achieved on your career journey from time to time. It helps appreciate what it has taken to get to where you are, and the new challenges that are likely to arise in the future.
- Appreciate the process. The excitement of achieving many goals is short-lived, just like buying a new car or new suit. If you are not enjoying the process of growth, think more about what really makes you happy. Maybe your just pretending it is what you want to do.
- Your job is not the definition of who you are, although it takes up more time than nearly any other event in your life. Look at how the job makes you feel and how it can make you feel if you approach with appreciation for what you are learning.
- Accept that there are others that won’t show you appreciation in the way you want it. While certain relationships may not be ideal, use this as an opportunity to learn. Appreciate that you are always learning about others, even when they get in the way of the passion you have for your career.
- Do something you love, and if not, work out what you love. This is often the biggest career mystery.
Does this resonate with you? Or are you content regardless of what happens in your career?