How Can You Balance Stability And Fulfillment At Work?

Pretty-Padded-Room_SlideshowIllustrated by Mary Schafrath.
I’m working at a start-up that I really believed in when it first launched. One year later, it’s the same bureaucratic BS as any other job. I want to leave, but I don’t know what to do next. This is my fourth job in six years (in different industries, mind you), and I’m worried that maybe I’m just a professional commitment-phobe. I feel like I should stick it out this time, at least for my resume's sake, but I just can't see being happy here. I want to have a long and fulfilling career, but I don’t feel I’ve found the right fit yet. What do I do?
Dr. Christina Zampitella, Licensed Clinical Psychologist:
"It sounds like you haven't quite found your passion, and therefore, without a direction, leaving feels like you are stepping off a cliff without a net. It's challenging to maintain a course of action if the goal does not resonate with your overall career vision. Wanting to have a long, successful, and fulfilling career is an excellent overall goal, but it is a bit vague, which is why it may be so elusive for you. It's time to narrow down your focus, and break down the goal into smaller, attainable goals to get your momentum going. For example, look at all of your previous jobs and write out the pros and cons. What do they have in common? What are the differences? What did you like and not like about each job? Then write a list of what you need in a career. For example, 'I want to help people,' 'What minimum salary is needed?' or 'How much autonomy do I need?' Eventually, you should see a pattern. Then, do research on careers that meet your criteria. If you are looking at jobs that do not fit your criteria, you are doing just that — looking at jobs, and not a career. It's time to become more focused, and choose a career path that meets your needs and passions. Stay at your current job while you flush this out. Then, start looking and get some interviews. Once you find your niche, give your notice, say your goodbyes, and wish them luck. Onward!
Bea Arthur, Licensed Mental Health Counselor:
"I like that it’s important to you to have a personal connection to your professional work, but you’re setting yourself up for a cycle of constant disappointment if you’re expecting your job to be a major source of fulfillment. Society likes to claim that 'if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.' If that were true, I’d be a millionaire just by eating nachos and watching So You Think You Can Dance. Yes, your job should provide a sense of satisfaction by allowing you to execute and excel in your skill set. And, ideally you should enjoy the work, but because you get paid for it, that is meant to be the reward. For example, Dave Grohl arguably has one of the best jobs in the world, doing what he loves with his best friends, and getting recognition and adoration on a regular basis. Yet even he says that if he didn’t have his family, interests, and inspiration outside of his work, that it would get old.
"It sounds like what you’re really looking for is the newness and the potential of a new job. Just as in romantic relationships, some people start to get restless when things get too familiar or boring. Try not to think of it as boring but stable. The most successful people have the stamina to keep going through challenges, and for you, this challenge could be reconnecting with your original passion for the company and committing to it. The best part about startups is that they’re a living, breathing thing, and when it’s a small team, you have the power to directly influence it’s growth and impact. That’s an amazing perk and worth the effort. Every job has its annoying aspects — that is unavoidable — but we do it anyway for the greater good.
"That said, I do feel that it’s a waste of time to invest energy into something that’s not a good fit. Think of it like outgrowing a new pair of jeans: You’re not comfortable in them, and everyone can clearly see it. Just because you can squeeze in and 'tough it out,' you’re not fooling anyone! So, if you’ve gotten what you needed, learned some new things, expanded your network, and can leave on good terms, then write that letter and find your next adventure."

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