It may not be a big surprise to hear that your job impacts your self-esteem. According to a University of Phoenix School of Business survey by Harris Poll of more than of 1,000 working adults in the U.S., 47 percent said they gain equal or greater feelings of self-worth from their jobs and careers as they do from their personal lives.
The search for the right career is a lifelong quest. The survey found 66 percent of workers in their 20s are searching for the right career, but they aren't the only ones. Fifty-three percent of workers in their 30s, 42 percent in their 40s, 25 percent in their 50s and 21 percent age 60 and older are all searching for fulfilling careers. Your definition of the right career is a moving target and changes as you go through life, based on your changing values and priorities.
Values and Priorities Change -- So Should You
Is your job aligned with your values? It may have at one point, but your values can and often do change. In fact, sometimes values change without your realizing the shift. This may be one reason you're feeling dissatisfied with your work. The good news is "professionals no longer feel locked into a specific career path," according to Sam Sanders, college chair for University of Phoenix School of Business and former human resources executive. There are other influences at play here too. According to Sanders, "workers are staying in the workforce longer and the lines between personal lives and work have blurred, so it is not surprising that workers are focused on finding jobs and careers that align with their values and contribute to their feelings of self-worth."
Avoid Putting All Your Effort in One Basket
One day, you may wake up and find you have fallen out of love with your professional life. Changing jobs isn't the only solution. One way to create a personally and professionally fulfilling life is to volunteer or join activities in line with your personal values. For example, if you have a soft spot for animals, invest free time helping out at an animal shelter. You could help raise money, promote an upcoming event or even walk orphaned dogs. The key is to diversify how you invest your time in case one day you find your job no longer suits your values. By getting involved in outside activities, you will surround yourself with other, like-minded professionals involved in something that does provide you with a feeling of self-worth. This also provides you with contacts for new opportunities that align with your current values.
Defining Your Own Self-Worth
If you haven't evaluated what is most important to you at this stage of your life, now would be a great time to assess your values. Your values provide guidelines for your daily choices and actions. Think about what you're most proud of today, inside and outside of work. You were most likely successful because your work and values supported each other. For example, if your accomplishment was a report your produced, this may indicate you value providing excellent quality, conducting research or collaborating as part of a team. Dig further and consider which experiences have shaped you into who you are today and determine the compromises you're not willing to make. Remember, your answers should apply to your personal and professional life.
Follow Your Passion
Whether you believe following your passion is good advice or not, it is at least a great starting point. The things that interest you or that you're passionate about may hold the key to the types of jobs that may provide you with a greater sense of self-worth. Use your passion as a launching point to investigate options and research the reality of a career move, not necessarily a direct path to satisfying work.
Own Your Happiness
If there is a lesson from this study, it's that it's up to you to own your career and happiness, no matter what stage of life you're in. If you're like almost half of U.S. workers and allow yourself to be defined by what you do for work, be clear about what your current motivators are and clearly communicate and take action on them. Instead of expecting your employer to know what will make you a productive employee, discuss the types of projects or activities that you think will keep you engaged. Also be on the lookout for training or professional development opportunities that will keep your skills fresh and in-demand. And most importantly, maintain a balanced life.
Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored "Social Networking for Business Success," and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.
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