Think about the worst job you’ve ever had.
I’m talking about brain dead, boring, tedious, work. You’ve had at least one of those, yes?
Sometimes we accept a job like that, knowing that it doesn’t suit us perfectly. But we’re not in a position to be particularly choosy. We have to pay the bills, right?
But other times, the job looked great on the surface. Only after accepting the offer did you discover that it didn’t suit you at all.
Why is that?
The Complications of Choosing a Career
Maybe your well-intending parents pushed you to become a lawyer because they wanted a secure, profitable career for you. But hours studying case precedents bore you to tears.
Perhaps your siblings went into medicine, and your competitive nature led you there, too. But while you enjoy working with patients, dealing with the other members in your practice, plus the insurance issues are killing you.
Or maybe a high tech environment was considered the cool, hip place to be, so you studied software development. And now you spend your days holed up in front of a screen when you’d really rather be around people.
In each of these cases, the careers were selected for external reasons. Elements of the outside world heavily influenced your career choice.
Sure, a nice salary is great. But once you have the basics covered, shouldn’t you factor in what makes you happy and fulfilled when deciding how you spend the bulk of your day?
No, your past choices weren’t terrible. But they didn’t exactly lead to career happiness, either.
So now you’re ready to consider a different approach.
What Do You Need?
There are things you need to be happy in your career.
Like a work pace that matches your natural tendencies, social interaction levels that suit you, and co-workers who energize you.
Did you think to factor those in when you selected your current job?
Unfortunately, most of us don’t.
But we’re immediately aware of the mismatch once it’s too late.
A New Approach: “How I Like To Do Things”
So let’s try a simple approach.
Rather than focusing on the complicated job traits such as pay, what your family wants, where you’ll work, what you’ll do, who you’ll work for…let’s just consider how you like to do things.
Let’s say you are in charge of a new initiative. Do you need some time for study and analysis before you begin taking action, or do you jump right in and perform tasks to get things moving quickly?
Do you need to know the background or history of how this project came to be, or is the fact that your boss said “do it” enough for you to approach it enthusiastically?
When you hit a roadblock during a project, do you choose to work your way around it, delicately work your way through it, or proceed like a steamroller because “I’m on a deadline, people!”
Can you see how this “how you like to do things” concept applies?
Your natural preferences regarding things like pace, details, and how you influence others impact your happiness and fulfillment each day.
Understanding what your natural tendencies are will help you identify a potential mismatch.
You likely already have an idea about your natural inclinations, now that I’ve planted the seed. But let’s go over some questions to help draw out more ideas.
Pace: Eager or Deliberate?
When someone asks a question, are you answering before they even finish? Or do you need to mull things over a bit? Maybe even use a “let me think it over and get back to you” so that you can analyze a bit before responding?
Influencing Others: Inspiring or Logical?
Is it your natural tendency to effectively connect with people, or does it take a deliberate effort? Do you just “wing it” and successfully persuade, or do you lay out the facts to convince someone of your case?
Risk Taking: Uninhibited or Cautious?
Do you love flying by the seat of your pants, or do you prefer to map out a plan and evaluate potential consequences before taking action?
These are opposite extremes, and your preferences fall somewhere along each continuum.
Draining vs. Energizing
When your “natural” tendencies are in alignment with your job, your team, and your work environment, it’s heavenly. You feel energized. You’re inclined to take on more challenges, dream bigger, and grow.
You feel happy.
But – alas – there can be hiccups.
Even in a job that’s well suited to your natural tendencies, there will be times when you must adapt outside of your natural preferences. No biggie, it happens.
But it’s important to realize that adapting to someone else’s pace, communication style, or risk tolerance takes additional energy.
Which is why you’ll find that certain people, tasks, or projects absolutely drain you.
If the hiccup is a temporary or occasional occurrence, no worries. You’ll deal with it.
But if it occurs all the time, impacting your overall happiness? You might have to make a change. That may mean resolving the mismatch in your current role, or it could mean moving on to another position that better suits your natural tendencies.
After all, this is your happiness we’re talking about.
Are you in a job that suits your natural preferences and energizes you? Or do you find yourself adapting constantly and feeling drained? How does it affect your happiness?
About the Author:
Michelle Agner is a career blogger who has had a meandering path through a variety of jobs, good and bad. She transformed these experiences into Careertopia, where she helps people find, grow, and excel in a career they actually like.