On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy your job?

I love my job but it has not always been like that.  Why do I love my job now?  Because I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day and my boss is super flexible, gives me regular feedback and enables me to play to my strengths.  I have been working 32 years and I worked out, aside from the casual work I did in my teens, that I have had 8 distinct roles in my career.  My first job out of school I loved, working with horses, however it didn’t pay very well, the hours were long and I had to work every weekend. The jobs after that went from admin, to training, on to sales and I seem to have come back almost full circle back to training and coaching.

In the last 12 months I have coached 142 individuals.  Early in the session we explore the topic for our coaching.  More recently I have noticed an increase in the topic of career from ‘what is next for me?’ to ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’ this question I am seeing more often asked of those in their 40’s or for women re starting the think about their careers now the early years of child care has passed.

A question I ask as a form of evaluation is “on a scale of 1-10 how much do you enjoy your job today?” 1 being I hate it and 10 being I love it.

On average we spend 90,000 hours of our life working.  For some people, they work to live and others live to work.  What if the work you did is something you loved? What if it met all your requirements AND got paid to do it?  It is possible?  I believe so, I am living testament.  Sometimes we just have to work out what that thing is.

10 years ago, I was at a cross roads of my career. I didn’t mind what I did but it wasn’t what I would call fulfilling.  I had been in IT sales over 15 years and felt there was something more.  I explored different roles within the IT space including sales management but couldn’t land on anything specific that made me say yes that’s me, I think I would love that.  I was hovering around a 7-10 in terms of enjoyment on my own question scales (if that was NPS it would be a detractor). I had probably felt like that for around 18 months. 

I recall distinctly researching about a specific client (company not a person) and reading about their head of People and Culture and being in awe of this persons writing, the company philosophy around people and career that I asked my key contact, if he could introduce me, which he did.  I found myself asking this gentleman if he would be my mentor.  He kindly agreed and we met every few weeks.  The questions he asked me and had me think about as my homework helped me define my path and continues to help me today if I hit a road block.

The 3-legged stool

One key element that really stuck with me was the metaphor of the 3-legged stool. The principle was that we need to find balance between the 3 things, which are represented by the legs of the stool, the 3 things that we see as most important to us.  These might be compensation, location, working hours, tasks performed/responsibilities, manager, band etc.  Each leg needs to be in balance or the stool will rock about and be uncomfortable to sit on.  We can sustain a bit of a wobble for a period of time but if one or more of the legs are much shorter than the other, we could at times fall off the stool completely.

What Matters Most

Sometimes trying to work out what matters most to us is a challenge in itself. I find writing an exhaustive list useful, even putting them into categories and then creating a shortlist of those that matter most to you. This in itself can pull out some things that are important to you that you hadn’t thought of before. I recall when I did this activity, I had 4 lists to choose from that included Relational, Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Attainment motivators.  I defined my key areas as Fun and humour, Leadership, Trust, and Making a Difference.  My most common reasons for leaving a job, by far has been down to Leadership, lack thereof or just a bad boss.  That is another post in itself.

Your Best Day at Work

Another exercise to think about is looking back at the past.  What did your best day at work look like? What were you doing, list them out, how were you feeling, who were you with?  Now do the same for the worst, why was it the worst?  What were you doing, how were you feeling, who were you with?  Look at some other common patterns for both the best and worst, what do you notice?

Now that you have some resources to help you, now think about why is your score out of 10 is what it is.  Now if it’s a 10, all good, well done, remember and reflect back when you are having a not so 10 day.  If it’s a 7 out of 10 (or any other number) have a think about what would need to happen to make it a 10? From your 3-legged stool is one or more of the legs out of balance?  What is one thing you can do this week to bring it back into balance and if that is not in your control what needs to happen? Then look at your ‘what matters most’ list, do you see a pattern there, is there something missing, something you can change?

When we rate ourselves out of 10, how long has it been like that for? How long can you sustain that, like the wobble on the stool?  I coached someone recently who said they couldn’t remember back to their best day at work and that they had been a 3/10 for years. I felt so sorry for them, It doesn’t need to be that way!  YOU can do something about it.

Discover your Strengths

The other thing you can do is to play to your Strengths.  Again, if you don’t know what they are, there is help at hand.  I highly recommend you take the CliftonStrengths Assessment; this will give you a detailed 25-page report highlighting your natural talents and strengths.  Gallup being a polling company have hard core evidence around the research of discovering and playing to your strengths.  They have found that individuals are 6 times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and 3 times as likely to live a happier life.

Knowing your strengths will help you feel more engaged in your job.

So how much of your 90,000 working hours or however many you have left do you want to spend not being a 9 or 10 out of 10 in terms of enjoyment.

I recommend you share with your line manager, your list of what matters most to you and even your 3-legged stool. If you have a great leader, they should be curious and wanting to help you be in balance. Remember – check your legs, if there is a wobble, how long has it been like that for, what is one thing you can do today that would make a difference?

Charlotte Blair
19 January 2022