Finding contentment within our careers

FINDING peace and contentment in our working lives can be a tricky balance to uphold.

Career satisfaction used to mean having a job, any job, with enough financial security to buy a house, raise a family and be a generally respectable citizen.

Nowadays, the bar has raised somewhat.

Should I be earning more money? Why can’t I find work doing what I love? Am I where I thought I’d be by this age? How can I feel more fulfilled and inspired at work?

Chances are these are questions that have or will run through most of our heads at some point.

Generations Y’s in particular are not expected to stay in any one job or career for too long with this age group estimated to have about 10 career or job changes in their lifetime. If you meet someone under 30 who has been in their job for more than 3 years, it is a committed feat indeed.

But is this restlessness limited to the youngsters? It seems not.

New SEEK data reveals 68% of Australians would like to work in an industry other than the one they are in and 3 out of 4 Australians are either actively looking for a new job or monitoring the job market.

Despite this, only 38% actually intend to change jobs in the coming year and in reality only 23% of us will go ahead and make a change. Desiring a career or job change is highest for 18 -24 year olds with 43% in this group wanting to find a job they can be proud of.

Interestingly, younger people are also most likely to feel out of control, overwhelmed and uncertain during the job search process.

Kate James is a career coach and SEEK Change Ambassador who works with people transitioning careers, whether it be out of corporate and into their own businesses or with creatives who are building a career out of their passions.

I spoke with Kate this week about these statistics and how we can go about finding career contentment in a society where change is the only constant.

Fear of the process underpins why so many of us are restless at work but not acting on it. Many can feel overwhelmed by the process of change and so people often do things like go back to study (62% of people think additional learning will help them secure their ideal job) in the meantime.

While education can provide new skills and the confidence to land a new job, Kate advises gaining work experience (through volunteering for example), learning how to network properly and writing field specific resumes is crucial.

Kate James Image: Supplied


There are other multifaceted pressures facing young people as well. There is less down time and adrenalin and cortisol levels are higher than they were 20 years ago. The cost of housing has risen considerably and this can be additionally overwhelming and concerning. Also, with infinite access to information and tools like social media, it is all too easy to see filters of other people’s lives and draw shallow comparisons based on this.

Kate’s advice to those feeling discontent or restlessness in their career is to run your own race. Start with you; tap into your values, strengths and aspirations to understand what will make you happy and fulfilled in the short and long term.

How do you want to live your life? What do you enjoy doing? What do people say you are good at? What do you think will matter most to you when you are 50? What would you do if you had no fear?

For some the answers may be economic security while for others it may be freedom and creativity. Whatever it is, you need to be clear on what your values are and take baby action steps to align your working life accordingly.

A second key piece of advice is you can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once. Over the course of a lifetime you may be able to have all the things you dream of but in reality this means certain periods will require sacrifices in order to work towards plans later in life. Map out a ten year plan but also choose your top priorities for the next 12 months.

A third piece of advice is to remember change is challenging for almost everyone. It is tough but nearly always worth it. In the recent SEEK research, 88% of Australians who changed careers said it was a good decision. However, during this process it is normal to feel fearful, uncertain and even hopeless at times. Even those dripping with success and confidence go through periods of self doubt.

The key is to begin with baby action steps. This could be reaching out to your mentors or people in the industry you wish to be in, taking on a volunteer position or simply working for free on your business idea in your free time.

If you are really stuck with where to move next, Seek Learning offers free call service where you can chat one on one with consultants in different fields to help plan and implement your next career step.

The most important thing is to have a plan and find the time to do things properly. Stay open to change and be kind to yourself throughout the process.

Self-aware life choices, small action steps and staying connected to those who provide support for growth will lead to your career calling, just don’t expect it all overnight, as tempting as this may seem.



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