Why career satisfaction is the wrong goal

February 12, 2019

A first association with the word “Satisfaction” is good and positive. As opposed to bad and negative. As opposed to dissatisfying. And so, phrases like “Customer Satisfaction” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed” enter into our language as reassuringly positive.

But here’s the thing: is “Satisfaction” really good enough?

Let’s say I own a business built on outstanding professional service. And so, much of my success will be dependent on word-of-mouth, client referral and personal recommendation. As a business owner, if my goal with each client is (merely) “Customer Satisfaction”, I’m not going to survive, let alone thrive.

Because satisfaction is just satisfaction. It’s nothing to get fired-up about.

If I were the client and I were left satisfied, that to me would be an “as expected” result. And so, I won’t be making any recommendations. And no, I won’t say bad things against the service. And I’ll probably say it’s fine or even good, if asked. But I won’t go out of my way to share my satisfying experience. And I certainly won’t talk with gusto about my satisfying experience.

I’ll only do that if I’m wowed by the level of service. If I’m astonished. If I’m amazed. That has to be my target.

And that’s how I want you to feel about your next career goal.

So no, “Satisfaction” is not enough. Not when it comes to your career.

Because it’s merely “as expected”. It’s lacking in energy and excitement. It won’t get you fired-up. And who wants that for their next career step?

To be energised and enthused, motivated and inspired, powerful and resilient, your goal needs to be Career Joy. Career Astonishment. Career Amazement.

Here are a few thoughts to set you on the path to Career Astonishment

Amplify the Goal

More often than not, we don’t go far or deep enough in our career future envisioning and goal setting. And when we don’t go far enough, the best we can hope for is achieving our goal – by definition, already far less than our highest possible potential. And the worst is we do nothing, achieve nothing and get frustrated with the whole idea of goals – because no one gets excited about flat goals.

So, do this: take your first draft goal. And AMPLIFY it. In every way that matters – and that’ll be different dependent on the goal and the person, but you might like to start with factors like meaning, impact, influence, fit, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial. Challenge and stretch your ambitions. At least by a factor of 2, but once you get the hang of thinking big, make it a factor of 10.

Align with your Values

When we’re in flow with our goals (any goals, not just career goals), we have values resonance. When we’re saying we want to achieve something and it’s just not happening, we’re in values conflict. Values drive all our important decisions and intentions and not being crystal-clear on my values today will deny me career joy in the future. Obvious stuff – but sometimes, so obvious we don’t notice. We don’t think to put attention there. So, do notice. Do place your attention there.

Do this, now: complete a Values Assessment. If you need some guidance, you can download my worksheet here, but there are many other very good values elicitation resources and exercises out there. Get clear on your Top 6 Core Values. And in particular, focus on our personal core values rather than global values (fairness, social justice, democracy, etc.). With your list of core values, reflect deeply on how these values could and must show-up: in your day-to-day role and in your long-term career.

Alongside this activity, also build a list of the values that your next company believes in. And not just in writing, but the values the company must LIVE INTO each and every day.

Focus on Difference-making

What impact do you want your work to have on those closest to you, those in your circle, your wider community and the world, at large? What difference do you want to make? When you look back on your life’s work, what will be positively different as a result?

The difference we want to make in the world is a powerful driver of

Purpose. Mission. Meaning. Contribution. These are all powerful drivers of long-term career. And they can all be most-easily accessed with the thought of Making a Difference. Enough said.

Add a Little Wonderment

When I was working through my Advanced Firework Career Coach certification, we completed an exercise where we walked the streets with a partner for nearly an hour, taking it in terms to finish the sentence stem “I wonder …”. Not much more guidance than that. Just wander around, taking it in turns to say, “I wonder …”. It was a very enjoyable – and insight-generating – way to spend an hour.

“I wonder …” is such a gentle way for Big Self to ask Little Self to experiment and explore. To think expansively without getting overwhelmed. To think big, without getting complex. Find a thinking partner and give it a go.

Maximise Energisers. Minimise Drainers.

If you want to elevate your career from simply satisfying to amazing, joyful and deeply fulfilling, take a look at what energises you in a day and what drains you. Do it now, this week. Start a list on your phone. And from the moment you wake to the moment you retire for the night, notice and capture the energisers and drainers. If you capture everything – and you’ll get better and better at noticing, once you start – it’s enlightening.

Big things. Little things. People. Places. Communities. Attitudes. Thoughts. Ideas. Environment. Setup. The list goes on and on. But your only rule is that EVERYTHING goes on the list. Do this for a few days and you’ll get some very strong clues what you need to keep, add, lessen and remove. Of course, you can make many or most of those changes right now. And I recommend you do so: much easier to spot your next joyful career shift from a place of energy and flow. But also plug those fundamentals into your validation criteria for the next career move.

And the Magic Ingredient

An important lesson I’ve learned over the years, coaching those looking to make a career shift or and career step-up is: the world is ready to give us what we want, if only we’d ask for it. So, take this lesson to heart: BOLDNESS is key to achieving Career Astonishment.

How do we do that? How do we introduce more boldness? By practising. Like any muscle, it needs to be worked. So from here on, starting today: Take any and every action you have on your list and challenge yourself to make it bolder. Take any and every decision you have and take the boldest version of it. Take any dilemma and always go for the bold choice. And at the start of every day, ask yourself the question: What one bold action could I take today that would move me towards Career Astonishment?

Source: Dan Beverly

About the Author

Dan Beverly is a leadership and performance coach, helping high-achieving professional women embrace the pivotal career moments.

Comments are closed.

© 2019