Monday, April 18, 2011

Five Ways to Tell if You're in the Right Job

There are a lot of people out there who are miserable because they're in the wrong job.

With the economy starting to turn, ever slowly, for the better, more people are thinking about how well their jobs are aligned with their inspirations. And Tax Day seems like as good a time as any to explore this.

I have no idea if you should stay in your job, look for another, or go out on your own. But in working with others as a coach and mentor, it seems like there are issues that come up again and again. Here's a few things to think about--

1. What's Sunday night like? Are you able to be present with your family, or are you dreading putting on your work self Monday morning? Is your work self similar to your home self, or does it take a lot of energy to change (and maintain) personas?

2. How much of your work is satisfying? How much is dreadful? Every job has good and bad parts, but is there a core of your job, or the people that you work with, that you really enjoy? That you love, even? Or do the bad parts overwhelm the good?

3. Does your employer walk the talk? It can be easy to talk big with corporate-speak mission statements about changing the world. But do you feel the leaders exemplify those values? Or are they playing scared? Or small? Or even cold or mean? Some places present a big opportunity to lead change--others squash it like a bug or just bleed you dry. Knowing when to give up on a place is an important skill.

4. Are you proud to work there, and to do what you do? When you're at a party, do you hope that people will ask you about your work, or do you try to avoid the topic?

5. What does you gut tell you? When you think about leaving, does it open you up or shut you down? I'm not talking about fear. Fear is natural. I'm talking about the physical sensations around your heart and solar plexus. These can be a very good guide to what your deepest views are on a topic. Try it!

Each of these questions asks you to trust your intuition, which makes itself known in different ways to different people. There are other ways you might find out, too. Some people feel led through their biggest decisions. Some people have dreams or odd coincidences. They meet the right person at the right time, they get an unusual phone call or happen to open a book to the "right" page. I even heard a song on the radio that helped me once. You never know.

But the more we can be honest about what we want, and the more we're willing to suspend our beliefs about one right course of action, the more we might find life conspiring to help and guide us.

Is there anything you would put on your list? How have you known when to make the leap?


(One other thought--if you've been without a job, you can ask these questions to try to get a sense of what you want, what you envision for yourself. A different version might be to ask these questions to people who work someplace you think you might like. Play with this--there are all kinds of possibilities!)

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