What is the source of career fulfillment? Is it financial success, or power and prestige? Is it pursuing what you thought you wanted to be as a bright-eyed kid?
Perhaps the most useful way to define career fulfillment is to start noticing in what contexts you actually feel most fulfilled.
Structure vs. Spontaneity
Do you find yourself thriving most while collaborating with a like-minded partner, working alone under a tight deadline, or planning goals out months ahead of time? While most of us may perform faster under pressure, we all have innate preferences for varying amounts of adrenalin, stress, and predictability. Becoming more aware of your own optimal levels can help to inform what type of work setting you’ll do best in.
For instance, most of us have been socialized to believe that a 9-5 office job is the only right way to work, but many ambitious, creative, and successful people have achieved their fullest potential because they recognized their unique preferences for flexible work environments. The key is learning to infuse your work life with just the right amount of stress, excitement, and structure to support your creative impulses and inventive temperament.
Social vs. Solo
Given the countless ways careers can now be configured, there are ranges of interaction you can have with others while at work. Each of our temperaments lie somewhere along the introvert/extrovert continuum, and it’s important to pay attention to your own preferred levels of social interaction, stimulation, and distraction.
Working for too long in an environment that doesn’t suit your temperament can be detrimental to your overall mental health. Conversely, once you hone in on your ideal level of stimulation and social buzz, the right setting can exponentially increase your productivity and career happiness.
Systematic vs. Spearheading
Some of us work best by following established plans, tracking project milestones, and maintaining annual budgets. These types of tasks can be highly enjoyable for those who are organized, methodical, and results-driven. Others are more attracted to roles that involve generating ideas, building relationships or developing prototypes. These responsibilities are more often found at younger companies, or at an earlier stage of a project.
For those at a career crossroads, it may be helpful to reflect on what types of tasks–and thus which opportunities–offer you the chance to contribute your strongest strengths.
We feel fulfilled by our careers when they’re in alignment with our work styles and personalities. No amount of money or prestige will make you love a career that’s been built on a mismatched foundation, so take the time to consider each of the three categories above before you take your next leap.