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Do You Have Unrealistic Career Expectations?

So, you’re not happy at work.

“But,” you wonder, “is anyone?”

Maybe you expect too much. Maybe you have some unrealistic idea of what career fulfillment looks like. Maybe this is as good as it gets.


After all, no job is perfect. But, there might be one that’s a little closer to perfect. Or a way to make your existing career MORE perfect.

Here’s one way of looking at it:

If you were to rate your career satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is perfectly satisfied and 1 is perfectly dissatisfied, where would you land?

Based on my experience, I suggest that an average of 8 is a reasonable expectation. Mind you, that’s an average. So, some days will hit a 10 while others will hover somewhere around a 6. But, overall, you’re a solid 8. That’s great for most people. If you’re lucky enough to hit a 9 or a 10 on average, you’re fortunate and a rare exception.

That’s not intended to discourage you. Think of this as a reality check. You always want to shoot for the moon. But recognize that landing amongst the stars is still pretty darn good.

Plus, the more you know about what fulfills you in your career and the more you practice creating that fulfillment through your daily work, the more often you’ll have those days where you hit a 10 on the satisfaction scale. So, as you progress through your career, (with a little effort) your average will move ever so slightly higher until one day you might even hit that “perfect” place where you’re one of the fortunate few.

If your average is somewhere around a 6, you have some work to do. There’s definitely opportunity to experience a greater level of career satisfaction. There might be some small changes you can make where you are. Perhaps a little self-analysis is also in order. Do you really know what your version of career satisfaction looks like? After all, if you don’t have a clear vision of what a 10 is, how can you expect to move closer toward it?

If your average is consistently lower than 6, it’s time to rethink your career path. You CAN find something that satisfies you more. It’s not unreasonable to believe that. You’re not expecting too much. You deserve better.

Career fulfillment is 100 percent subjective. What makes you happy won’t necessarily make your neighbor happy. Your level 10 satisfaction might look completely different from mine. But you have to respect your own needs.

There are plenty of people who actually wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work. Despite what you may have heard, the whole word does not dread their time at work. Sure, it’s not always a picnic—that kind of expectation would be unrealistic. But overall, it’s satisfying. Sometimes it’s downright awesome. It’s a solid 8.

Where do you land currently on the satisfaction scale? Have you been holding out for a 10 and not appreciating that you’re doing pretty well at an 8? Have you been harboring unrealistic expectations of what career fulfillment actually looks like? Or are you suddenly realizing that greater fulfillment really is possible? Are you finally saying, “I’m not willing to settle for a 5 or a 6. I want, and deserve, something better!”

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And, if you’re ready to experience greater fulfillment but don’t know how, I’d love to help you find your way. Learn more about my career coaching services here.

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4 Responses to “Do You Have Unrealistic Career Expectations?”

  1. […] Eat Your Career shared an eye-opening post that wants you to examine, Do You Have Unrealistic Career Expectations? […]

  2. Erin says:

    Great post. I’m probably at a 5 in my current job because it’s ultimately not what I want to do and there are definitely some duties I don’t like that are a big part of the job. Thankfully, blogs like yours have helped me in doing a lot of self-analysis and I’ll actually be starting a new job in a few weeks. I’m not sure if this will be a job I ultimately will stay in, but it’s in the industry I want and is a step in the right direction. I’m still doing research into the specific career in healthcare that I’ll want and need to see if there is a way I can job shadow someone to get a better sense if it than just reading about typical duties on a website.

  3. […] And 8.5 is nothing to sneeze at, right? It’s actually a shade higher than what I advise people to realistically expect. […]

  4. […] And 8.5 is nothing to sneeze at, right? It’s actually a shade higher than what I advise people to realistically expect. […]

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