Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want out of my career. At the beginning of this year it came down to money. If I was making good money I would be satisfied with what I was doing. Through both personal experience and stories from others who have chased a secure career, I’ve found that this isn’t the most important thing at all.
Monetary stability is only one of four very important factors in finding a fulfilling career. What I’m saying may not apply to all people but in these very early stages of my career, they are the things I value. For me, the most important part of a fulfilling a career is doing work that utilizes my talents. If I feel like I’m doing work that doesn’t play to my strengths, it gets to me. It feels like your work or maybe even talent isn’t appreciated and that your time spent at work is going to waste.
The second thing that is crucial for fulfillment in my career is doing work that I care about. This is a common desire. We all want to feel that we are making a difference. It’s the reason that some people working for massive corporations feel empty and almost ashamed of what they are doing. This seems similar to doing work that utilizes our talents but it is an important distinction.
Everyone wants to leave this earth feeling like they made a mark. At the end of my career, I want to be proud of both the specific work I have done and the impact it has made. This is one of the hardest things to mind in life. Finding what we are passionate about is a long and tricky process. I don’t know everything that I care about right now. When I’m 35, my opinions, motivations, and outlook on life will be different. It’s easy to feel like you may be going down the wrong path. To avoid this I’ve tried to identify just a few things I know I really care about. If it turns out I’m not as passionate as I thought I was, well then no harm done. At least I tried and I can scratch it off the list.
I don’t want to sound like money isn’t important to me. It is. But at a certain point, there is very little correlation between an increase in income and an increase in happiness. This is something Roman Krznaric addresses in his book How To Find Fulfilling Work. He interviews people that have jumped the financial levels and asked them about the effect more money had on their overall quality of life. In most cases, it did virtually nothing to make them happier. The problem is that once you level up, your expectations do as well. It’s a never ending process and it leaves many feeling empty at the end of their career.
The last thing that I know is important to me is a certain level of freedom. Don’t think that I’m saying this out of laziness. I hear people say this sometimes and it easily comes across that way. One of the great goals for my life is to merge the border between fun and work. I want what I’m doing in my career to be enthralling. I want to wake up equally excited for my work and my fun.
Freedom is a pretty crucial part of this. Having the typical 9-5 really affects people’s work ethic. Having a rigid schedule set for you takes an element of freedom from your work. The last goal for my career is to be able to set my own schedule. Again, don’t misinterpret this to mean I’m lazy. It’s the most important part of finding freedom in your career.