Mastering career satisfaction
In my role as a clinical psychologist providing specialized career counseling and assessment, I often work with people who look for happiness and fulfillment in their jobs. Most of my clients have expressed dissatisfaction with their careers at some point. It is not unusual for these feelings to manifest as emotional distress, depression or anxiety.
No matter what the focus of our work together, whenever my clients express unhappiness around their jobs, I ask them to think about the four principles below. Based on my experience, if one of these elements is missing, there is a greater likelihood of decreased fulfillment or happiness, which can significantly impact emotional and physical well-being.
Are you passionate?
Do you wake up every morning and love or like what you do? I often work with clients who chose their jobs because they were passionate about a few of the primary functions, but over time the role may have changed or the job is not as expected. An attorney who loved the intellectual debates in law school might now find that the hours of solitary computer work at a law firm are not as stimulating.
Do you respect your coworkers?
Harmony in the workplace can also influence how we feel about our jobs. Coworkers and management often have a heavy hand in creating the culture of the workplace (even a remote one). Realistically, we don’t always get to decide who we work with, but most of us have to go to work every day and engage with others regardless of our personal opinions of them. Sometimes, the work environment is even toxic and/or abusive, full of drama, gaslighting or unfair practices. Managing these interpersonal stressors can take a toll on an employee’s overall health and happiness.
Do you believe in the mission?
Sometimes there are changes that employees cannot control, such as leadership shifts, growth, product refocus or new company values. A company’s decision to grow can change its culture, making a once intimate setting into one that feels impersonal. If an employee feels disconnected from the values of the company, her performance, morale and investment in the job are at risk.
Can you clear the “clutter?”
Sometimes the clutter is real (“I can’t just up and leave, I have a mortgage or rent to pay”), and sometimes the clutter is more about perception (“what if I put effort into a search and don’t find something better”). Regardless of the type of clutter, it’s helpful to take a look at it, because it can get in the way of clarity and impact overall well-being. Realistically, we can’t always remove all the clutter, but we can think about better ways to work through some of it.
As you consider these four principles, you might identify what is compromising your own career fulfillment. Although it is not always possible to take immediate steps, it can be helpful to pay attention to internal signs of distress and discontent that will guide your path to change.
Start with self-reflection and/or consultation with a seasoned career consultant to determine whether or not realistic shifts within oneself or the organization can resolve the disconnect. You might seek out a professional career counselor to help you identify personal values and strengths using, in part, assessment measures. Speaking with a therapist can also be helpful to work through emotional ramifications of current work stressors. Finally, two good resources available to Mount Holyoke alumnae are the Facebook groups MoHo Career Chat and Sisters Hiring (Seven) Sisters.
Emily Inglesi ’95 is a licensed clinical psychologist in Boston’s financial district, where she has a private practice specializing in working with professionals in the areas of anxiety, life transitions, identity and providing Core Themes™, a four-phase career counseling and assessment program. Learn more at dremilyinglesi.com and corethemes.com.
This article appeared as “Increasing the Fulfillment Factor” in the fall 2018 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
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December 12, 2018