Being professional. For some, careers come naturally. From an early age, some may know what they want to do and pursue that interest in a professional setting. Others may take a little longer to find where their passions lay. Maybe they read an article that sparked their interest and with it, a desire to understand and learn more. Others may have admired a role model or someone who exemplified the spirit of who they want to become. Others may not have been so lucky.
Finding Your Barings
If you were like me you had no idea what you wanted to do as a professional and no one around to tell you how important it is to find fulfilling work. I was talking to a friend recently and she summed up what it was like for both of us growing up. She said she had no problem going the traditional college route, but there was a turnoff on the career path that wasn’t clearly marked. Showing her how to convert what is interesting to her and to borrow a sentiment from Marie Condo, what “sparks joy” into a fulfilling and professional career.
This isn’t a new story for sure. That’s why popular phrases such as, “that’s why it’s called work” or something another friend of mine’s wife said to him, “you act as though your the first person to not enjoy their job” are prevalent. These may be true statements and there are aspects of every job that may be less than palatable for those doing them. But what about finding meaning in the work we’re doing. Or at least getting behind the values or moral compass of the company we work for. Shouldn’t that make our work, regardless of how tedious some tasks may be, more fulfilling?
Know Your Values
I would argue yes. And to use an extreme example to illustrate my point, if I worked for a company that was knowingly destroying the environment I would feel less satisfied than if I worked at a place where all our single use disposables were compostable. Now we all have our own standards by which we judge fulfillment, but there is a common thread. And that is a sense of joy and even pride in our contribution to something larger.
If we’re left in the category of, I don’t know what I want to do and I don’t know how to get there, then there are a few things you can do to help find your path. For starters we can ask ourselves what our values are. There are tests out there that can help with this aspect.
You Want Me to Take a Test?!
Carl Jung’s personality type test is a good place to begin. It starts by breaking down your tendencies and illustrates the patterns you are most likely to fall into by placing you in four of eight possibilities. If you’re not familiar with them they are, introvert/extrovert, sensing/intuition, feeling/thinking and judgement/perception. There are 16 possible combinations and it’s best to not read them until after you take the test. There are a number of places online where you can take the test and for free as well.
Then there’s the enneagram test. This test shows you which archetype you most resemble. Some examples of archetypes you could be classified as are, lover, thinker, leader, reformer… There are also free resources online for this test as well. I’m not as familiar with this one but it seems to help some people so it’s worth looking into if you’re starting from scratch.
These tests can be helpful to finding your values but they are just aids for self discovery. These test methods have devoted followers and can be somewhat polarizing. Don’t forget that no one test should be able to define who you are or your values. It’s worth remembering that even though you may fall into a certain personality type that you very much connect with, in some way you are all aspects of each type.
It’s Not All About the Money, But It’s Nice to Know How Much to Ask For
Now let’s say you have a career you are passionate about and find joy and fulfillment from. Do you know how much you should be compensated for the work you do? Often times people don’t know what they should be asking for when it comes to pay and benefits. Or that this area is even negotiable.
It took me a long time to understand that the experience I have is worth something to my employer. I was always taught that I should just be grateful that I have a job and to work as hard as possible. Sacrificing myself and time for the people I worked for regardless of how they treated me. I was taught that loyalty was most important and self sacrifice was a given.
This type of dedication isn’t inherently bad. There’s a lot to be said for someone’s character who holds these values close. It’s when these values are taken for granted and expected as given while being taken advantage of by either abuse of time or compensation. If you don’t know how you should be compensated there’s a good chance that your employer does and may be willing to take advantage of your ignorance.
That being said there are a lot of fair employers out there. But it’s best to be prepared and not leave something this valuable up to chance. And even with a fair employer, I’ve worked many a place where someone held some resentment for the sacrifices they weren’t asked to make because of the unfair standard they held themselves up against.
Legacy of Secrecy: When Your Role Models Don’t Role Model well
In my family, money wasn’t just not talked about, it was treated as a secret so volatile, that the mere mention of the subject set everybody in the room on edge. This was a topic that was downright feared in most people’s families from the generations of the 70’s and prior. I’m not sure what the reason for this was, but it got in the way of my family building trusting bonds that would be able to withstand difficult times.
My advice, if you’re coming from a similar background is, to talk openly and often about your financial situation. Now this doesn’t mean telling everybody your checking account number, but talking about promotions, pay scale, debt and other broad strokes of your financial situation shouldn’t be grounds for being ostracized from your family unit.
For starters, being open with your pay to others is a good way to gage what your cohort is making. It also acts as a way to keep employers honest. If everybody has an idea of what everybody else is making, then those who don’t know their monetary value will be less likely to be taken advantage of.
These situations are all too common and can be avoided by setting healthy work boundaries. Unfortunately this isn’t often talked about and something not everyone is taught to do. There are websites such as Salary.com and PayScale, where you can determine what your rate of pay should be. And hopefully avoid situations like these altogether. Or try reaching out to a friend and asking their opinion who is in a similar situation.
Take a Breather, You’ve Earned It
And don’t forget to take some time to yourself. Take a long weekend, go visit a friend or a place you enjoy. Or discover a new city. Take in the sights and enjoying a relaxing dinner. Don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your labor and develop your personal likes and interests. No matter how much fulfillment you get from your work, if you don’t balance it with some time to yourself you can become drained and one dimensional.
Hopefully, with the right attitude and drive, you will be doing the work that brings you joy and you will be compensated fairly for your time and experience. Also setting healthy boundaries for yourself by being honest with how much you are able to give, and when to take time for yourself. Just remember, it’s possible and don’t give up. Peace and thanks for reading : )