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Career Happiness Is A Choice Within Your Control (Article 1 of 3)

Lately it seems that many of my students, clients and even family and friends are reaching out to talk about an increasing lack of fulfillment in their lives.  While happiness manifests from many sources, most of these callers blame their job for the feeling.  Fulfillment and happiness are pretty lofty topics, so I thought it might be worthwhile to provide a series of articles related to fulfillment and happiness both in work and in life rather than try to tackle everything at once.

Let’s begin with happiness at work.

If we’re unhappy at work, we’re likely to feel the effects in other areas of our lives, too. Finding ways to be happy at work not only brings greater productivity and engagement, but will also help us achieve greater overall mental, emotional, and physical health.

Do what you do well.  One thing I’ve learned leveraging high-quality behavioral assessment tools such as the Predictive Index is that every type of behavioral profile is good at something.  However, in many cases we may find ourselves in jobs or careers that don’t play to our strengths.  It’s perfectly normal to flex and adjust for a job, and any person can perform any job with the right training and experience.  However, when we have to make dramatic adjustments to fulfill the requirements of a position it can cause higher levels of stress and can make us unhappy.  

Remember you are in control of your career.  Everything in your career is the sum of all choices you made up to this point....if you want a different job circumstance, make different choices.  It sounds overly simple, but one of the best ways to take control of your happiness at work is to take control of your career.  Seek out opportunities to improve your performance, take on new responsibilities, or otherwise engage in work that is rewarding and fulfilling. Investing time and energy into your career growth and development not only makes you more marketable, it can also result in greater workplace happiness because you feel like you are growing or working toward goals and aspirations.

Take control of your own professional development.  Often, we wait for our employers, supervisors, or bosses to suggest professional development. Sometimes, however, we can wait too long and remain in the same position without growing. To be happy at work, take control of your professional development. Set goals for yourself in terms of new skills to master, new roles to try on, or new positions to aspire to. Don’t be passive – seek out opportunities for new training or education and enlist your supervisor or manager’s support. Be willing to develop new skills and look for opportunities to do so. Create a professional development plan for the next year or even five years for yourself, and actively seek ways to implement it.

Seeking frequent feedback is another way to take control of your career happiness.  Being aware of what we are doing well and what we can improve helps us as we set professional goals. Draw on your support team to seek out feedback regularly. Rather than relying on yearly or quarterly reviews or waiting for a supervisor or colleague to come to you with feedback, ask for feedback on the completion of projects, after presentations, or when collaborating with others. Make an agreement with members of your support team that you will regularly ask for their feedback, and that you will listen carefully to what they have to say. When you receive feedback, listen respectfully rather than preparing to respond. Then decide how best to act on feedback, both developmental and positive.

Seek a mentor and mentor others.  Mentoring is a key aspect of professional development. When taking charge of your own professional development, seek mentoring. You might choose one mentor or several, depending on your development needs and your goals. Spending time with a mentor and getting his or her feedback can amp up your professional growth. Actively seeking mentoring also demonstrates that you take your professional development seriously. Having a mentor to help guide your professional development also helps create a positive, beneficial relationship. Seeking out opportunities to mentor others is also a way to take charge of your professional development by building leadership skills and sharing your knowledge and development. Mentors and mentees can be valuable parts of a support team, as well as creating personal connections in the workplace.

Last, but certainly not least, practice professional courage.  One of the greatest things you can do for your own professional development and workplace happiness is practice professional courage. Professional courage involves directly and productively addressing conflicts, advocating for yourself and others on your team, not compromising your values and otherwise dealing directly and proactively with potential problems. It can be difficult to practice professional courage, as it involves taking risks – it can seem easier to let a conflict go unaddressed or to accept the status quo. However, allowing conflict to be unresolved or your needs to go unmet can breed resentment and undermine productivity, self-esteem and happiness.  Professional courage helps to promote open communication in the workplace.  It also assures that resentments and grudges do not fester. Learning to practice professional courage is a leadership skill which can help prepare you for, and make you a candidate for, more responsibility or promotions. But even if it does not lead to job advancement, practicing professional courage marks you out as a leader and someone who wants to promote the healthiest workplace.

Remember, transformational change results from small changes consistently applied over time.  Pick one thing to focus on and stick with it.

Please stay tuned for the next article exploring How Are You Getting in Your Own Way?

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