How do we choose our profession? We generally decide it based on whatever offers the best mix of career prospects, financial rewards, status and security. We may also consider how well do our skills measure up against the challenge involved in that kind of work. Why is that so many people are not that happy with their work then?
It’s because we either land up in a job that doesn’t necessarily match our skills or we happen to be pursuing it for the wrong reasons. Lacking clarity about the core purpose of our professional life, we are usually swayed by what seems like a popular ladder to climb. For example, with disregard to their real interest or aptitude, we have hordes of MBAs chasing investment banking or consulting jobs. Likewise, a number of engineers may be tempted to pursue careers in the IT industry.
Since quick upward mobility in the organization is then the primary objective, employees are easily disappointed at any pace of career growth that’s slower than expectation. Further, growing up in an environment- both at school and at home- of constant comparison with others, we immediately feel dissatisfied when our progress appears less promising because of someone else’ faster advancement. Lastly, guided by our aspirations of an affluent lifestyle, we can get too fixated on merely the monetary rewards of our work. Clearly, the quality of satisfaction with work suffers.
While reflecting on your professional life, the key issue you need to address is what are you really after – is it a job, a career or your calling? People in a job are in employment because they really need the money to run their household. While they are influenced by the quality of the work environment, the monthly paycheck is of paramount importance to them. They would perhaps be willing to consider moving to another organization just for a higher salary.
People pursuing a career are driven more by the position, career growth, opportunity for recognition, and the prestige of their roles. While they tend to have a longer-term perspective towards their work, they can easily get de-motivated when their chances of promotion begin to slow down.
Finally, there is a small minority of people, who are engaged in what is their true calling. They have a deeper connection with their profession, are passionate about it, and then every day, work is like play for them. While striving for excellence is important to them, what they are engaged in is more important to them. Generally, people in the last group tend to feel the most fulfilled!
In that background, it’s critical to explore whether you are after a job, a career, or your true calling? While we are preoccupied with dreams of climbing the career ladder, rarely do we pause and wonder if our ladder is leaning against the right wall in the first place. What would be the place where you would find the optimal balance between fulfillment and success?
I believe each one of us is uniquely gifted and has a special purpose on earth. I have also come to appreciate that it is indeed possible for any of us to create the meaningful life that we sincerely want. So, go forth, discover and follow your calling – the calling that brings together your unique talents and what you most enjoy being engaged in; what you were meant to bring to this planet and what serves a meaningful purpose for society.
All the same, I recognize that many a times, particularly when we are stepping out in the professional world, seeking financial stability is important as well. However, the question is what weightage do you give to the potential financial rewards versus your real interests. If you are uncomfortable with following your calling in the very early stages of your professional life, you may want to pay attention to the following framework for making your career choices.
Consider three criteria before making your choice – a) what you are genuinely passionate about, b) what you are good at and c) what is financially rewarding. For an optimal balance between fulfillment and success, one generally needs a healthy equilibrium among these three criteria. Missing any one of these three aspects could leave you feeling incomplete.
For example, if you pursue something that you are passionate about and good at but it does not pay well, you could be disheartened. If you follow a path that pays well and you are good at that work but you do not necessarily enjoy it, you may experience lack of happiness and fulfillment. Alternately, if you choose an area that you are passionate about and it pays well but you are not necessarily good at it, you may not be successful.
In conclusion, I would say that it is worth focusing on discovering and following your calling. If you are passionate about some field, are skilled in that area and highly committed, success will likely follow you. Having said, if that seems like too much of a stretch at this stage, you may want to at least start with your real interests and skill levels before considering financial and other factors while choosing the direction of your professional life.
-Rajiv Vij is Life and Executive Coach, and blogs at http://www.personalalchemyblog.org/ . He is former MD, Asia, Franklin Templeton Investments.