When you start to look at what’s important to you in a career, one little thought can stop you dead in your tracks. It can pop up in response to any answer you come up with -- “but isn’t that what everyone wants in a job?”
Doesn’t everyone want to feel challenged? Doesn’t everyone want to feel appreciated? Doesn’t everyone value financial security? Everything you uncover can feel so generic and useless to help you figure out what’s right for you.
I do an exercise with my clients where we uncover their "Strength Statement" (a great exercise I learned at Google). We create a sentence or two that describes when they feel most energized or at their best. When they come up with their sentence, it can often trigger the “but isn’t that what everyone wants in a job?” sentiment but I get to see the incredible variety between clients.
There are lots of nuances about what makes people feel energized and fulfilled at work. Here's a selection of statements from a variety of clients:
“I am energized when I get to solve and really understand complex and intimidating problems by stripping them down, tackling them from different angles, and analyzing them with tools to create feedback.”
“I’m at my best when I have ample time to prepare a compelling story that convinces people of the value of the work I’ve been championing”
“I am energized when I’m given an opportunity to be present and ask questions in order to learn from others and receive real-time feedback on how I’m doing”
“I love having ample time to research, read and mull over a situation in order to let my brain craft thought-provoking questions that will help someone think bigger, make a positive change in their life or feel appreciated.”
“I’m at my best when I have a clear understanding of the goals, autonomy over the direction the work goes and all necessary context at my disposal”
“I am energized when I get to learn new skills quickly in order to be able to design something from beginning to end.”
“I love presenting on topics I find exciting when I have ample time to prepare so I can deliver a well-executed and polished talk.”
There may be an element of challenge or appreciation in these sentences, but there’s also so much variety. Each sentence paints a completely different picture of what it looks like to them.
This question also comes up during an exercise we do around values and what’s important to you in life. To show you the spread of responses I see, here are a few examples of my client’s top values:
Relationships, Adventure, Challenge, Humor, Health, Independence
Growth, Passion, Connection, Courage, Intuition
Leadership, Financial Security, Individuality, Community, Resilience, Learning
Family, Challenge, Career, Taking Risks/Doing Something Different, Having an Impact, Adventure
Family and Stability, Passion/Purpose, Growth
Of course there is some overlap but there’s also a lot of individuality. There are slightly different words used and in different orders of priority.
If you find yourself getting stuck on “but isn’t that what everyone wants in a job?” as you’re figuring out what’s right for you, start to look for the details. What is it about challenge or appreciation and how does that show up in your day-to-day? What are the specifics of what’s important to you? Once you get past the ambiguous career buzz-words, you’ll find your answers in the details.