I’ve never been a very good employee. Oh sure, I am conscientious, and I get my work done on time and to the best of my abilities. I can make spreadsheets and presentations, and I’ve generally received positive feedback from my former bosses. But I have a problem. I’ve never been truly happy at a job. It took me several years and a few tragic career missteps before I decided that I needed to sit down and really think about why. As always I turned to books to help me out.
The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success (Touchstone Books) is an excellent resource for those of you trying to make sense of your career trajectory. As is Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type which looks in-depth at personality types and suggests career paths based on innate strengths and weaknesses. The most important thing I discovered from my research is that my values drive me and if the majority of them aren’t satisfied I won’t be either.
My top ten values in order are:
1. Independence, autonomy, self-reliance
7. Learning, personal development
8. Achievement, accomplishment, respect
9. Stability, security
10. New experiences/playfulness/excitement
What does this mean for me career-wise? Well after reading these books cover-to-cover, doing some soul-searching, and taking stock of my natural talents and inclinations I came to these conclusions:
1. The work has to be personally fulfilling for me. Basically I have to truly give a damn about it. Working on anything less leaves me feeling drained and anxious after awhile. Boredom and apathy set in and nothing good happens as a result.
2. I enjoy sharing my work with others, but I like to spend the majority of my time working independently. I need lots of space and the freedom to set my own schedule and do things my own way.
3. Along with personal space, I need some room to be creative. Working a job that is all numbers and analysis all the time is definitely not for me (as I have learned the hard way). Along the same lines it really helps if there are new experiences built in. Doing the same thing day after day is no fun. Stagnancy kills creativity and takes away the possibility of learning and growing by being challenged.
4. My career will probably never make me rich. That’s okay with me. Being wealthy isn’t necessarily something that I aspire to. While I agree that you need money to survive, I’m perfectly fine with being, as value #9 above states, stable and secure. One caveat: I am speaking from a position of privilege because our family is able to thrive on my husband’s salary alone. I know this is not the case for everyone. That being said, I’ve never truly been motivated by money. I like to have enough to be comfortable and have reasonable options as far as entertainment and travel are concerned, but beyond that becoming a millionaire isn’t really on my bucket list.
5. And the most important one: my kids are my priority. Any job that I have will always come second. In fact, being a homemaker actually satisfies me in ways that no other job ever has. In some ways I feel like my house is an entrepreneurial service business. I get to run it my way, I can be creative in how I parent, there are always new challenges and problems to address, I am always learning and growing, and there is definitely no doubt that I care deeply about what I’m doing.
But besides being a homemaker where does all this leave me when, in the not too distant future, the kids aren’t demanding my attention 24/7 and I actually have time to think about my career?
The truth is, I fear, the job that I’m best suited for isn’t a traditional one. Being a writer is the only other thing besides taking care of my kids that has made me feel like I’m contributing in a way that isn’t compromising my values. Writing feels natural, good, never forced. I’m at peace with myself when I take the time to write because I know it’s not a waste. I’ve never been able to say that about any other career choice I’ve made.
Being a writer isn’t an easy road, but it’s one I’m willing to take. There are no guarantees. I just keep plugging away at it, doing my best with each article, story and blog post with the belief that it will all eventually pay off.
In the meantime, I’ll be content with reminding myself that happiness lies in holding true to my values. With that in mind, the writing path doesn’t get less difficult, it’s still a long and winding road, but it sure is a lot easier to find my way.
Image credit: Bluebird Chic