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Published on September 23, 2019

Why Job Satisfaction Is Important If You Want to Succeed

Why Job Satisfaction Is Important If You Want to Succeed

In my adult life, I’ve had nine positions at nine different colleges in seven different states. Some might call that picky. Others may refer to it as wishy-washy. But I like to think that I was a Job Satisfaction Seeker.

We all want to work at our dream jobs – who doesn’t? We want to be part of a community of like-minded individuals who come together daily to be part of an organization, corporation, or institution that makes a difference in the world. If you just wanted a paycheck, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.

Job satisfaction doesn’t just come from your job title or your take-home check stub. You feel it inside because you know you are working at a place where you make a difference. Your values align with your employers, you connect with your co-workers, and you enjoy working for and with your supervisor. You are able to see the difference you make through your performance.

That sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

As I referenced in my opening line, I’ve worked at several different places. SEVERAL. And I wound up leaving those first eight positions for different reasons, but they were all related to job satisfaction in one way or another.

Company Culture

In my first position out of graduate school, I found myself in an environment quite different from the professional development I had received in my assistantship. I was doing an entry level position at a mid-size public school in the pacific northwest. I had been used to being the Big Fish in the Small Pond, but now the shoe was on the other foot.

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In essence, I had accepted a position that was, how should I say this, more politically correct that I was accustomed. And I got in trouble a lot. This led me to my first lesson on understanding company (institutional) culture. Knowing that your values align with your employer and that you “FIT” there is important to job satisfaction.

At this stage in my life, I had no idea what questions to ask during the interview to get to the concept of “FIT.” I was a young professional, just out of graduate school, and just married, too. The trifecta of early employment struggles. Still, I made some good friends during my two years at this position, and I can say with all honesty that I’m glad I took this position.

Using Your Skills at Work

My second professional position was at a small, private, liberal arts school in the midwest. I ran my own department – rare for someone at my age, generally speaking – and my supervisor was really cool. I loved my students and really connected with my colleagues and peers.

So, why did I leave? After almost four years – the third longest tenure in my career – I was in a meeting with my supervisor, discussing the changes coming down the pike in the next few years. My supervisor was very honest with me. “Kris, I’m not telling you to leave; but you will need to understand that the direction this department is going is highly administrative. If you want to stay successful, you’ll need to adapt to that and make some changes.” I thought of this for a long time and made the decision to look for a new job.

I realized that the parts of my current job I really ENJOYED – and had been successful – were not administrative tasks. They were highly relational and programmatic. And I wanted more of that, not less. I didn’t believe that my skills lay in the administrative arena. I wanted to continue working directly with students and doing programs.

Trusting Your Supervisor

My third job position was at a small-ish public school in the Washington D.C. area. It was roughly the same amount of money and the same duties, but a more prestigious title. Now, to be fair, there was a certain lure with this position because my sister had just given birth to twin daughters and lived only 20 minutes from my new employer. The pull from family can definitely be a factor when taking a position – and I thoroughly enjoyed the 9 months I spent in that area spending time with my sister.

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Still, there was always something behind the curtain that didn’t seem right to me. And it came down to trusting my supervisor. This was a strained relationship from the beginning; and I wasn’t “seasoned” enough to know exactly what I wanted to say to her to express my concerns. All it took was just one incident of getting thrown under the bus to turn the ship. It hurt, and to this day I’m not even certain that I handled it the best way. I learned a great deal about trust and communication. And that never happened to me again.

Creating Your Own Gig

From Virginia, I found my way to Chicago, working at a mid-sized urban institution. Chicago was home for me, and I relished the notion of working in my favorite city.

I honestly would have kept this position and stayed longer than 30 months – because it was a chance to create my own work experience and leave a true legacy. The position for which I was hired was a new position – I would be creating a leadership program for students living on campus. It included advising student leadership organizations and traveling to various conferences. I was given a very nice budget and a good deal of freedom in what I created.

The main reason I left this position was out of support for my husband, who was a California boy and longed for more sun and warmth. Resigning was tough for me because I had a very good experience at this institution. From the job satisfaction standpoint, I was thrilled to have the chance to create my own gig. And I truly DID leave a legacy.

But when you have a life partner involved, sometimes making sacrifices is what’s needed for your partner’s satisfaction. In my book, spouse satisfaction supersedes job satisfaction. And he had made many sacrifices for my career. So I made one for his happiness.

Change, Change, Change

From the Windy City, I went to Arizona with no job lined up. I spent close to six months in temporary positions and had a very hard time landing a position at the big local university in my field of housing and residence life. Not having benefits was getting pretty scary – and expensive – so I went down the road of applying for every single position I was even remotely qualified for.

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I was thrilled to finally land in New Student Orientation as a Program Coordinator. I would be working directly with the Student Orientation Leaders at a slightly lower salary than I’d had in Chicago. Still, it paid the rent and I truly enjoyed my supervisor and colleagues. This job allowed for some wonderful travel and I was able to grow the Student Orientation Program to a level it had not seen previously.

But a New Sheriff was in town – President, that is – and it looked like there was going to be some major changes on the horizon. It wasn’t that I was worried about job security, but I WAS worried about the possibility of my position shifting to a new division all together. And I’d finally realized that I’d been on a lateral train for close to ten years. It was time to seek higher ground and a bit more stability.

Work Life Balance

I applied only to jobs with the words “Director” and “Associate Director” in the title. I landed at a prestigious private school in the mid-south with a campus housing requirement and a very high-touch approach to student development and student conduct. My favorite theory of “Challenge and Support” was mostly support and no challenge.

But I thoroughly enjoyed my colleagues and my supervisor. We were a strong team and we worked very hard — almost too hard. As an Associate Director, I finally had a chance to supervise staff and really build a team. I loved the city and even my hubby found a way to break into a field that he enjoyed further.

This position was a live-in position. I had an amazing apartment, a great salary, and wonderful benefits. I could use my meal card to buy CD’s at the bookstore as well as meals off campus at local restaurants. But I spent many weekend evenings at the hospital dealing with students who were intoxicated and made more than my fair share of parent phone calls. I was finding very little work life balance at this institution of higher education. I took my next position after only 18 months on the job.

No Upward Mobility

FINALLY – it was off to Southern California! I took a senior level position at a small private university in the very large San Bernardino County. I was running my own department, supervising staff, and found a wonderful connect with the professional association of my field.

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My supervisor was amazing. He gave me autonomy and freedom to run my own show, asked my opinion on higher level matters, and did everything that he could to create opportunity for me. Things were looking good and I was being courted for an Assistant or Associate Dean-level position. This was awesome.

Then, the market crash of 2008 hit and our institution suffered greatly. There were layoffs on the private school front and many public schools were instituting mandated furloughs. I survived the layoffs at my institution, but the writing was already on the wall. In 2010, my supervisor shared with me that he did not see any possibility for upward mobility in my case unless someone in a higher position resigned or retired. And since we had just undergone our second full restructuring during my 4 year tenure here, I made the decision to start looking for something else.

The Moral of the Story

There is more to my story – after all, it IS 2019 now. I have found job satisfaction in my current position; and while there is still room for improvement on a regular basis, I don’t get restless anymore. I’m able to work collaboratively with my supervisor and my colleagues in a way that leads to job satisfaction every day. I feel stable and successful. I want to work in this position and this institution for the rest of my career. To quote Huey Lewis and The News, “I’ve Finally Found a Home.”

Do I regret being the former Mary Poppins of Higher Education? No. I learned a great deal about myself and what I’m capable of doing in my career and for students. But I’m happier and more satisfied than ever where I am now.

So go ahead – try on some different jobs. See how they fit. Ask questions. Make some waves. Participate. And don’t ever stop seeking job satisfaction!

More About Job Satisfaction

Featured photo credit: Amel Majanovic via unsplash.com

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Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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  • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
  • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
  • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
  • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

For Changing a Job

  1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
  2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
  3. Get a raise.
  4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
  5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
  6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
  7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
  8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
  9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
  10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

For Switching Career Path

  1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
  2. Find a mentor.
  3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
  4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
  5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
  6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
  7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
  8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
  9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
  10. Create a financial plan.

For Getting a Promotion

  1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
  2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
  3. Become a mentor.
  4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
  5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
  6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
  7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
  8. Become a better communicator.
  9. Find new ways to be a team player.
  10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

For Acing a Job Interview

  1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
  2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
  3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
  4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
  5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
  6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
  7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
  8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
  9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
  10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

Career Goal Setting FAQs

I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

4. Can I have several career goals?

It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

Summary

You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

  • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
  • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
  • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
  • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
  • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

More Tips About Setting Work Goals

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

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