Are you working more, enjoying it less, and dreading the time you spend most days at your work place? If you answered “yes” to this question, take some time to exploreyour current career choice and consider all of the other options life has to offer.
You spend a substantial portion of your life at work. Why not make that time as professionally and personally rewarding and fulfilling as possible? You have nothing to lose, and potentially a great deal to gain, by spending time exploring your interests, values, and options. I believe you really, ought to want to love what you do at work.
You Work Long Hours: Invest Them in Work You Love
The average American manager works 42 hours per week, but a substantial number of managers and professionals – three in 10, or 10.8 million people – work 49 or more hours per week. Of male managers and professionals, four in 10 work 49 hours.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2000 report, this number of working hours is substantially unchanged since 1989. More managers and professionals are working over 49 hours, but more are also working less which keeps the number steady.
Comparatively, the hours that people work in non-supervisory or production jobs have steadily declined since the early 1960s in all categories except manufacturing, construction, and mining. In these jobs, hours have increased, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Monthly Labor Review, July 2000.
While the overall trend in working hours is down, with the average non-supervisory or production employee working 34.5 hours in 1999 as compared to 38.7 in 1964, this figure is skewed by workers in services and especially retail, who are working substantially fewer hours.
Remember, too, that these hours do not include time spent dressing for work or commuting. Getting to and from work can add an additional five to 20 hours to your work week. So, when you consider all of the time you spend related to work, you are working long hours.
You Feel as if You Are Working Harder
Managers and professionals perceive that they are working harder. Combine the extra hours relating to work with the actual hours worked, and a substantial portion of your week is filled. The pace of the modern work place is stressful. With most spouses and partners working and two schedules to balance with the needs of the family, life, in general, is stressful.
Technology inventions allow you to communicate with work twenty-four hours a day if needed. With email, cell phones, laptops, and PDAs, is it any wonder that you feel as if you are working all the time? Even if you’re not, you have the constant potential to fill every waking hour with work.
A Gallup Management Journal Survey summary reports that nearly one-fifth of workers are actively disengaged, or disconnected from their work. These workers have high absenteeism and are less happy with their personal and professional lives.
According to the report, “Gallup has calculated that they are penalizing U.S. economic performance by about $300 billion, or about the size of the nation’s defense budget.” These attendance and dissatisfaction issues make work longer, harder, and more stressful for the remaining workers.
Additionally, in many work places fewer people are doing more work as workers are not replaced when they leave or retire. In other organizations, finding qualified staff remains problematic, especially in areas relating to engineering and other technical careers.
Solutions to Ensure That You Love Your Work
Now that I’ve convinced you that you’re working long hours and working hard, why not follow this prescription for making sure you love your work. If you’re going to work this hard, your work must be something you love. You need to take some career exploration steps to find work that you really love.
So often in life, people seem to fall into jobs because one was handy or available at the right moment. Maybe you started in one position with a company hoping to move into something you liked better later. Maybe you started life as a teacher and continued to teach out of inertia or because you had so many years invested in the retirement system.
No matter your current position, every once in awhile, it’s time to assess whether the career you have created is the best career for you. Recognizing that there are certain economic and social realities, think about where you’d really like to spend the time of your life. These steps will help you explore and find work you really love.
Spend Some Thinking Time to Know Yourself
Take time on your vacation or on a long weekend to devote exclusively to thinking about your work and career. Ask yourself some tough questions. Do you get to do what you like to do at work every day? Does your job match your values and make a difference? Do you make the money you needto achieve your goals?
Does your career provide the work-life balance you desire? Do you love your work or is there another type of work you’d prefer? Be honest with yourself and if you answer these questions negatively, it’s time to explore further.
One exercise that I have found particularly useful is to write down everything you want to do, accomplish, see, try, visit, and so on. If your current career will allow you to accomplish these goals, okay. But it’s not okay, if you don’t have a shot at getting what you want from life.
Read Career Books and Do the Exercises
Here are several excellent career exploration books. Take time to read several of the books and do the exercises recommended by the authors. Think of it as guided career exploration to discover work you will love.
Take Career Assessments to Find Work You Love
The Web provides an excellent opportunity to take online career assessments to identify your strengths and explore your needs. Purchasing the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, also provides an access code to an online assessment called StrengthsFinder.com, which is useful.
Several sources of career assessments you might want to explore to learn about yourself include these. You can pursue these assessments on your own or you can consider talking with a career professional.
- Career Tests from About’s Alison Doyle at Job Searching.
- The Kingdomality Personal Preference Profile (This one’s just for fun, although it was certainly on target for me. I’m a “Discoverer.”)
- Career Self Assessment from About’s Dawn Rosenberg McKay at Career Planning.
- Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (Costs $17.95 and provides detailed results from a 320-item questionnaire.)
Additionally, Quint Careers provides an Online Career Assessment Tools Review that will help you select the best career assessment tools.
Talk to a Career Professional to Find Work You Love
As you begin to zero in on anything from a potential new career to a slight change in your current one, you may want to talk with a person who is skilled and knowledgeable about careers. About’s Career Planning site provides help in finding and choosing a career professional.
A career professional can help you organize the data you have gathered about yourself and potential careers. He or she can help you identify careers that require the strengths you have identified and the needs you have articulated. He or she can also recommend other assessments and help you make your plan to identify work you love.
Select Your Goals and Make Your Plan to Find Work You Love
I am a big believer in plans. Plans help you move from having a dream to really accomplishing the changes you desire. The more specifically you can detail the steps that will move you from where you are to where you want to be, the better your chances are for success. My article, The Awesome Power of Goal Setting — Ten Tips for Triumph, will also help you with this process.
Get Started on Finding Work You Love
Now is the time to get started. If you want to love your work, you need to select the career you’ve dreamed of having. Or, you need to make adjustments in your current work so you get more out of your current work.
At the very least, you need to get started on the plan that will eventually result in the life and work choices you want. First, you have to figure out what they are. Then, if you really want to love your work, you need to take the first steps and just get started. I know you’ll be happy you did.
Finding work you love will make all the difference in the quality of your overall life. When you consider the time you invest in work, the importance of your happiness with your work choice cannot be overestimated. Find work you love.
By Susan M. Heathfield, About.com Guide