A version of this article was originally posted on The Huffington Post
If you take the average of the many studies that have been conducted into employee engagement somewhere in the region of 80% of people are disengaged in their job. It’s a figure that hasn’t shifted over the last 20 years, and with the pandemic giving people a greater sense of mobility, many are looking at opportunities elsewhere.
Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve coached who chose a career to keep someone else happy, or moved to a new organisation only to find they are still unhappy with their job.
When I entered the job market 25 years ago nobody talked about finding work you love. You chose a career path and stuck with it for as long as possible and hopefully got a good pension at the end of it. Quitting your job without having another one to go to was almost unheard of and the advice was it wouldn’t look good on your CV.
Things have changed significantly since then and the ‘job for life’ no longer exists. Companies make decisions that impact on their workforce and people have different expectations about their work and careers. More people are making the decision to take control of their career and quit their job than ever before, even if they don’t have one to go to.
Finding the path to meaningful and fulfilling work is where most people get stuck. It’s no surprise when we’re never taught that we can decide for ourselves what we want to do and who we want to do it for.
After quitting a job he was miserable in, the late Scott Dinsmore and founder of Live Your Legend started interviewing and researching people who did inspiring work they loved and found they all have 3 things in common.
They know their story
We all have experiences every single day that help us learn about what we’re good at, what we’re not good at, what we love and what we hate. People who find work they love pay attention to their experiences and learn from them.
Like a lot of people, I fell into my first job by accident. I had no idea what I wanted to do after I finished studying and there was no obvious career ‘path’. My job search started with one of the largest local employers in the area I lived at the time and I found myself temping as a car part buyer. After 6 months I was offered a permanent role and with the support of a great manager was given the chance to develop the merchandise and accessories range. I loved my job yet three years down the line the learning and growth opportunities had dried up and that great manager had left, so I decided to go to Australia with a working holiday visa.
I arrived in Sydney just after the Olympics and it was tough to get a job. I ended up selling cars and then holiday timeshare and even though I did well enough for it to pay well, I absolutely hated it. I realised then you can be good at something yet not enjoy it.
After a few months I headed to the east coast where I drove a minibus and looked after guests for a hostel. I loved it so much I ended up staying for 3 months. Years later when I looked back over this particular part of my story it was easy to see why. I love helping people and it’s really important to me that they have the best experience possible.
When I returned to the UK I took a temporary job in marketing which ended being a long term career move. I began to climb the career ladder which took me as far as the Middle East in a regional role. And then one day I became one of those people that found themselves stuck. I no longer felt a sense of fulfilment from the work I was doing and I felt disengaged and drained of energy. I knew what I didn’t want to do, yet didn’t know exactly what I wanted to move towards let alone how to do it.
When I was introduced to the CliftonStrengths assessment every word written on the page made sense to me. As I went back through my story and paid attention to what I loved and where I had felt energised and fulfilled, as well as frustrated and depleted, patterns about all of my experiences and strengths began emerging. I got clear on where I’d experienced results for myself and others along with high energy and fulfilment. I knew what experiences I wanted, and needed, to keep repeating.
Paying attention to my story ultimately led me to becoming a Certified Coach and later a Certified Strengths Coach. Today I spend the majority of my time designing and facilitation leadership development programmes and coaching individuals and teams. I have the opportunity to do what I do best and enjoy every day.
“We learn things every day…if we don’t spend time paying attention to that and assimilating that learning and applying it to the rest of our lives, it’s all for nothing.” Scott Dinsmore
They know their strengths
People who find the work they love understand and are deeply connected to their strengths. They know what it is they have to do because it pains them not to. It’s the things they enjoy doing so much they would do them for free all day long if they had to. Yet only 2 out of 10 people say they use their strengths every day at work.
That doesn’t mean we all have to go out and find new jobs as there are thing you can do to help you find ways to do more of what you love in what you already do.
Author and strengths and leadership consult Marcus Buckingham says 73% of people agree or strongly agree with the phrase “I have the opportunity to manoeuvre my job to fit my strengths better.” He suggests spending a week in love with your job, keeping a ‘love it / loathe it’ list. By the end of the week you’ll have a list of activities that are both strengthening and weakening you, giving you the opportunity to look at where you can find ways to use more of your strengths in day to day activities.
73% of people agree or strongly agree with the phrase “I have the opportunity to manoeuvre my job to fit my strengths better.” Marcus Buckingham
And because we all have different strengths there may be people you can partner with who love doing what you loathe.
You can also find out what your natural strengths are by taking an assessment like CliftonStrengths.
They know what their most important values are
Our values are the things that are important to us in the way we live and work and what gives us purpose. When what you do and the way you behave matches your values, you are satisfied and content. If they’re not aligned, you feel discontented. Values guide our behaviour and decision making which is why it’s so important to be clear about what they are. Otherwise we can find ourselves in a situation where we are doing work we don’t care about.
One of my values is authenticity and I’m honest, empathetic and open. Being accepted for who I am and making sure I’m stepping into situations and environments that appreciate that are really important for me, otherwise I feel off balance and unfulfilled.
Knowing this means it’s important for me to led me to understand the values of the organisations I work for and with as I recognise the impact it can have when there isn’t alignment.
Knowing your story, your strengths and values all have three things in common. They are all within your control and gift to understand.
Many of us get to a point in our life where the career ego runs out. Some choose to ignore it because they don’t know how to take control and claim their story. Or might be fearful of what will happen if they do. For others the pull towards doing something that matters to them is too strong.
It’s too depressing to have a world where over 80% of people go to work every day disengaged in their jobs because they don’t get the opportunity to do what they do best every day. It doesn’t have to be that way. Great results never happen when people are disengaged.
Scott Dinsmore’s passion was to inspire people to find the work they love. He was a champion for it because he believed the world would be a different place if we all did work that matters to us. In his short life he inspired hundreds and thousands of people and leaves an incredible legacy of possibility and inspiration through Live Your Legend.
His Ted Talk finishes with one final question for us all to think about, the only one that he said matters. What is the work you can’t not do?
Click here to watch Scott’s TED Talk on How To Find Work You Love.