If asked, most people would say they want to have a fulfilling career.
Yes, they would like to be paid well. And they want generous benefits like good health insurance and paid vacations and the like.
But they also want some less tangible things. They want to do interesting work. They want not only to feel challenged by the work, but also needed by their employers and co-workers.
In other words, people like to want to come to work most days, and they would like to leave the office with some sense of accomplishment.
But far too many people don’t manage to find this kind of fulfilment from their work.
Perhaps they became too focused on the tangible things — the pay, the bonus, the benefits — and traded off the fulfilment part of the equation.
Maybe they got downsized or lost a fulfilling job, and had to take what they could get to feed their families.
But honestly, even when none of these explanations rings true, many people don’t find their work fulfilling.
If you are one of them, there are a couple of strategies you should consider:
Change jobs every two or three years
I know this sounds insane, so let me add a few clarifications.
I’m not recommending that you constantly change companies or careers, although you might decide to do one of those things (and if you hate your work, you really should do so).
But in many companies — certainly in large ones, and frequently even in smaller ones — it is possible to change your job significantly every two or three years.
Sometimes, it is a change in job title, or a move to a new division or other work unit.
As often as not, business conditions or other circumstances create the need for you to shoulder different responsibilities without even shifting to a new unit or reporting to a new boss.
When these opportunities arise, grab them.
If your job scope changes every few years, you will be learning new skills on a regular basis. You will be continuously tested by the new challenges you encounter.
And you will be constantly finding a sense of “newness” to your work.
When things start to become too predictable and uninteresting, look for the next opportunity.
Be a risk taker
Again, let’s clear away what I’m not talking about here.
I’m not suggesting you take risks with the company’s money or move ahead on that new product without any user testing.
Those would be “career-ending” risks — obviously not a good thing.
What I am suggesting is that you take risks in the way you manage your own career.
If you hear your company planning to create a new division that sounds interesting, don’t sit on your hands and don’t wait for all the details to trickle out.
Take action now. Find out who is involved and tell them you would be interested in working there. At least explore it further, and do so seriously.
If a co-worker is casting about for help on a difficult project, don’t tie your shoes while he’s looking around the room.
Volunteer! It could turn out to be the opportunity of a lifetime. And even if it’s not, at least it gives you a chance to do something different for a change.
More likely, it will expose you to someone else’s new ideas or even just his problems, and the experience will have side benefits you couldn’t have anticipated.
Similarly, if there is a position opening up in your field but it is halfway around the world, don’t just think about how disruptive it might be for you or your family.
Think about all the ways in which living in a foreign country could completely change your life.
Think about all the challenges of living and working in a very different culture, the opportunities to travel to remarkable new places.
In other words, rather than thinking of all the downsides, think about asking them how soon you could leave.
Remember, change is not a life sentence.
If you take a chance and it doesn’t work out, then change again and do something else.
The only life sentence is in not taking chances, in staying the same all the time.
If you follow these strategies, you can significantly improve the odds of having an interesting and rewarding career — one that you can eventually look back on with enormous satisfaction.
Take a chance. You owe it to yourself.