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End-of-Year Exercise: Rate Your Career Fulfillment

It’s that wonderful time of year again…where we all drink eggnog and sing merry songs as we reflect on the past and make plans for the future.

It’s the perfect time for a quick career reassessment!

That’s why I’m sharing this super-fast exercise to help you determine your End-of-Year Career Fulfillment Rating. It’s a very simple tool, but helpful nonetheless. (And by the way, this is something you can do anytime, even daily if you so desire, not just at the end of the year!)

For those of you who completed the exercises in my free workbook (How Nourishing Is Your Career?) or the extended exercises in my Build Your Professional Development Plan e-workbook, this one is basically a “lite” version of those. It’s not nearly as comprehensive and it doesn’t require the same kind of in-depth self- reflection, but it’s a great jumping off point. It’s easy and fast and it starts the wheels turning.

Here’s how it works: The goal is simply to rate your current career fulfillment using a scale from 1 to 10, where:

  • 1 = I’m totally, completely and utterly unfulfilled.
  • 5 = I’m neither unfulfilled nor fulfilled.
  • 10 = I’m totally, completely and utterly fulfilled! HUZZAH!

Note: You can substitute the word “fulfillment” for “satisfaction” if it’s more comfortable for you. I prefer the former, but, in this case, they’re pretty interchangeable.

You can choose a number anywhere on that scale from 1 to 10.

To choose your number, I want you to consider the totality of your current career situation. Let the good stuff push your rating up; let the bad stuff push it down. Many of have some complicated feelings about work; so let your number float around for a while until it lands in a place that feels most right for now.

Here are a few things to consider as you ponder your number:

  • The work you do
  • The people you do it with and for
  • The compensation you earn
  • The hours you keep
  • The environment you’re in
  • The culture you’re a part of
  • The organization you work for
  • The opportunities you have
  • The overall “feeling” you get
  • Anything else that contributes or detracts from your professional experience

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of considerations, and the weight you give each individual factor may not be the same across the board. Some things may be far more important and therefore will impact your total rating more (and vice versa).

Remember this is a quick, high-level check-in type of exercise. It isn’t about doing a deep-dive analysis of what’s working, what’s not, and why. This is just a snapshot. It’s about putting a number to what you already know and feel—creating a quantifiable measurement of your current career fulfillment (or lack thereof).

ANOTHER NOTE: If you’re really struggling to figure out how you feel or if you want a deeper self-assessment process, grab one of those resources I mentioned earlier.

Once you’ve got your number, commit it to memory. This isn’t the end; it’s the starting point for your future. Next year (or possibly next month or next week) you get to reflect back and see where you are in comparison to where you were. You’ll now have a real way to measure your progress. Numbers are more tangible, and they make tracking so much more effective.

And don’t forget my favorite universal rule: “That which is tracked naturally tends to improve.”

I love this simple exercise and I actually use the “1 to 10” scale method quite frequently to quickly assess my fulfillment level in a variety of life areas, not just my career. I find that it helps me gauge the direction I’m heading—Am I moving up the scale or moving down? From there, I know where to focus my attention for self-improvement and goal setting.

If you’re interested in going a little deeper with this exercise, here are a few questions to ponder after you’ve landed on your current career fulfillment number:

1. What comprises the portion of work/your career that you find the MOST fulfilling? What things pushed your rating higher? What makes them so satisfying? How can you do or have more of those things? What will you do to savor and appreciate them more?

2. Do you have a clear vision of what a “10” actually looks like? If not, spend some time figuring that out. How can you strive for something you don’t even really know the meaning of? Quite simply, you can’t. The scale is pretty meaningless if you don’t honestly know your version of a “10.”

3. What would it take to get just 1 or 2 points higher on your scale? What small steps could make a big difference? What can you start doing NOW to make it happen?

Finally, if you’re so inclined, please share your number in the comments! I’m curious to know where you stand and why.

Personally, I’m at an 8.5 this year, which is half a point higher than last year. Some things improved, some things stayed the same. But overall, I’m feeling very content. I have great work-life balance and lots of fun (yes, FUN) projects to keep me busy. The few things that could change to push me closer to a 9 or a 10 might happen, but they might not. They simply aren’t in my control. That extra 0.5 came from realizing that and whole-heartedly accepting it.

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

Please share your end-of-year career fulfillment rating in the comments below!


The Gift of Work

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to take just a few minutes to discuss the gift of work. I know it’s easy for many of us (myself included) to forget that work is indeed just that: a precious gift.

I’m currently in the process of doing a major home re-organization. In fact, I’m hoping to share some of what I’m doing in a video later this week, so stay tuned.

Anyway, part of that process involves decluttering…going through everything I own to figure out what I need, what I want, and what I can do without. Turns out, I have a lot that I don’t need or want. I’ve collected piles of stuff I can do without already, most of which I purchased with my own hard earned money, some of which I got as gifts from loved ones, and some of which I have little to no memory of how I came to have them in the first place.

It’s a lot of stuff, I assure you. Stuff I’m ready–even eager–to let go of.

So I’ve got these piles everywhere. Bags and bags of stuff. And tomorrow I’ll be packing it all up in my car and hauling it over to my local Arc Thrift Store donation center.

I’ve only recently become familiar with Arc. In fact, I had never heard of it before my sister joined their marketing team a few years ago.

One of the things I love about this organization is that they help people with developmental and intellectual disabilities to experience what they call “the gift of work.” They help these wonderful individuals live meaningful lives, part of which involves having a job–a place to go each day where you get to contribute and provide value to the people of your community.

Work is such an important part of what we all do in life. I think those of us who have been lucky enough to have it for a while forget that. We focus on what we want, rather than what we have. But really, we already have so much. It’s not wrong to want more–the better job, the promotion, the raise–but we shouldn’t take what we have for granted either.

Today, I’m very grateful for my life and my work and all the material possessions that clutter up my home. It’s really because of my work that I have most of them. And I’m grateful that some of those things I’ve been accumulating over the years will now go to help Arc and support others in experiencing the gift of work. It’s truly a precious part of life. Not just because it provides a means of affording more stuff, but because it provides meaning in and of itself.

Work may not always feel joyful, but there is joy to be had in it. Let’s focus more on that.

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear friends!


4 Ways Over-Delivering at Work Can Backfire

US_newslogoAfter a brief hiatus, I’m proud to announce that I am, once again, a featured career expert on US News & World Report! I’ll be contributing an original article over there once a month on various career-related topics so keep your eye out. (Don’t worry; I’ll share them here as well!)

This month’s article challenges a popular workplace rule: “under promise and over deliver”. I know, I know. In the past, I’ve touted the benefits of this rule. But it’s not always a wise move. Whether you realize it or not, over-delivering at work can waste time, skew expectations and annoy others. Read up on this topic and make sure you don’t accidentally make your life harder or harm your professional reputation by blindly following this age-old workplace wisdom. Read the article on US News & World Report here.


My Sense of Urgency Is Killing Me (Slowly)

For those of you who haven’t met me in the real world, let me first explain some of my character assets and liabilities.

I’m what every personality test on the planet would describe as “highly dominant” in a workplace setting. (In a personal setting, I’m quite different, but that’s a story for another day…)

At work, I’m extremely task-focused, almost to the detriment of my professional relationships. I do everything fast—from walking to talking to achieving. Give me a project and let me run–and I mean RUN. I love to be busy and in-control and even a little overwhelmed. That’s how I operate. I’m the “get it done” person in every sense.

Much of the time, I consider this a professional asset. But lately, it started to feel more and more like a personal liability.

You see, being that fast moving, fast talking, fast doing individual means I constantly have a sense of urgency. In fact, I often find slow, methodical people difficult to work with. My quick, laser-focused approach to whatever needs to get done has yielded much success in the past, so it’s been easy to foster the belief that my way is the best way.

Of course, it’s not. At least, not always. Just like eating Cheetos, there’s a point when too much of a good thing becomes a very bad thing.

When you have a heightened sense of urgency (like me) combined with a heavy workload, several things can happen:

  • Everything starts to feel urgent, which creates massive anxiety and makes focusing on any one thing difficult.
  • It becomes impossible to distinguish between the truly urgent and the less urgent (but highly important) tasks.
  • It’s hard to know where to begin when everything feels like an A1 priority.
  • It’s easy to disregard personal routines (like self-care, staying organized, etc.) so you can use that time for getting MORE THINGS DONE.
  • It’s tempting to move too quickly, which ultimately leads to mistakes or low quality work (which costs time in the long run and potentially harms your professional reputation).
  • It creates stress for everyone around you because they feel your craziness radiating like the heat of a thousand suns.

So this is where I was a few weeks ago. My sense of urgency was (ironically) killing me slowly. For several months, I had been plagued with nagging anxiety and a feeling that there was too much to do and not enough time. Over a somewhat prolonged period, I became more and more frazzled (a feeling I absolutely despise!) until finally I had to confront it.

I know some of this is simply the plight of the modern worker and I’m not alone. But I reached a tipping point. It was time to take a good hard look at my behaviors and make some much needed adjustments.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any period of time, you know I never a share a problem without also offering a solution. So, for those of you who are reading and thinking, “Oh. My. Gosh. She is literally talking directly to me. This is exactly what I’m dealing with right now,” you’re in luck.

Here’s what I’m doing to right the situation. Perhaps you can try some or all of these things yourself.

  • I’m consciously reminding myself that NOT EVERYTHING is urgent.
  • I’m carefully looking for tasks that can be eliminated or delegated—things I’m taking on that are unnecessarily adding to my stress or pulling my attention away from truly important tasks.
  • I’m working closely with people around me to better understand my real priorities.
  • I’m keenly observing those slow, methodical people who used to drive me nuts and trying to emulate their calm, systematic ways.
  • I’m re-dedicating to personal routines (like exercise, staying organized, and eating well).
  • I’m trying to fully focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is not my friend.
  • I’m keeping the “big picture” front and center, and trying to remember what really matters most both at work and at home.
  • I’m giving myself breathing room. When I feel that crippling sense of anxiety creeping in, I stand up and walk away from my desk for a minute.
  • I’m asking for (and accepting) help from others, even when that means giving up some control and slowing down to explain things.

These things are certainly helping, but it’s an almost constant workplace struggle. I still think having a sense of urgency at work is a good thing. It shows you take your work seriously and are committed to efficiency. You don’t have some lazy “I’ll get to it when I get to it” attitude. You recognize that business is constantly moving and success doesn’t favor a slow poke.

The trick is using that sense of urgency appropriately and not letting it run the show.

Yes, it’s important to accomplish things at work and, in my opinion, doing so quickly is a valuable added bonus. But it’s even more important to accomplish the right things in the right way.  Not everything can be done today, nor does it need to be. I’ve known this for a long time; now I just have to accept it and learn to operate this way.

I’m curious: Do you have a heightened sense of urgency? If so, how do you control it?  Please share your experiences in the comments!


Decision vs. Action: A Key Distinction for Success

I have a question for you: Three frogs are sitting on a log and one decides to jump off. How many frogs are left?

If you answered two, you’re wrong, but don’t sweat it. Most people fall for it.

Here’s the thing: One frog decided to jump off the log, but that doesn’t mean he necessarily did anything about it.

Decision is not the same thing as action. We often confuse it as such, but deciding to become a millionaire is entirely different from actually doing what it takes to make it happen.

I’ve been fascinated with the simple idea of “action” for a little while now. It’s funny how much time and energy we can spend on everything else (brainstorming, research, evaluation, analysis, decision-making, etc.), when, in reality, action is the most essential part of any quest. Without it, we’re left marinating in our own mental juices thinking we’ve gotten somewhere when really we haven’t.

Action is the hard part, the unglamorous part. It’s the part that requires early mornings and late nights and sacrifice. It’s the part that hurts.

Decision-making, on the other hand, gets most of the glory. We proclaim with great pride: “I’ve made a decision!” as if it’s some kind of enormous feat. But on its own, a decision only goes so far.

Think about it. How many times have you heard things like this (or perhaps even said them yourself) only to find that the decision isn’t backed by any sincere action?

  • I’ve decided to change my career!
  • I’ve decided to write a book!
  • I’ve decided to quit drinking!
  • I’ve decided to start a business!
  • I’ve decided to leave my spouse!
  • I’ve decided to exercise more!
  • I’ve decided THIS IS MY YEAR!

All are noble decisions to come to and I’m not discounting the process it takes to get there. But, once the decision is reached, it’s just the beginning.

Deciding to do something doesn’t make it happen. It doesn’t automatically equip you with everything you need for success.

Once the decision is made, that’s when the real work comes in—the reprioritization of resources, the dedication of time, the intelligent risk-taking, the unshakable commitment to the decision.

We don’t always know the right action to see our decision come to fruition. All too often, we make a mild attempt at action only to find it’s not what we thought it would be. And the decision we so labored to reach goes to waste. We become the frog who made the decision to jump, dipped his toe over the side, but never took the leap.

Believe me I know. I decided a long time ago that I was going to write a book. And guess what? That decision didn’t make me a published author. It’s only been in the past six months or so that I’ve taken the action to make it happen. It’s slow going, I assure you. But I now feel like I’m getting somewhere.

It worthwhile mentioning here too that sometimes, once the action starts, you realize the decision isn’t what you want any longer. And that’s okay. Maybe our little frog really loves his log. Maybe he takes the leap and decides it’s just not for him. Once again, that decision (on its own) accomplishes nothing. He now has to take action to rectify the situation.

I know it’s hard to make decisions about life and work. We pour a lot of time and mental energy into the process. But don’t let that fool you.

Let any decision be your jumping off point—your catalyst for action.

What decision have you made that you’re committed to taking action on? Share with us in the comments if you’re so inclined. I personally find it’s always motivating to know I’m not alone. Maybe you will too.

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