I read Edward M. Hallowell’s Shine this weekend and it reminded me of the cornerstones of job satisfaction - something I have been thinking about since I had my first job about twenty years ago and actively experimenting with for the past year. The book is written as a tool for managers to help their teams thrive, but it provides the scientific basis for my own theories on why and how we choose the work we do.
Hallowell’s five steps to excellence are based on his more than thirty years in psychiatry, coaching, consulting and research. They are incredibly important for everyone to understand – they remind us that professional success is a complex achievement. While I want to talk about the first step – choosing the right field, industry, role, geography, etc. – just picking the correct work for yourself is not enough. You must also go through the other four steps: connecting with the company you work for; playing or being engaged in imaginative aspects of your work; grappling with the inherent challenges to overcome them and grow; and shining or being rewarded for your successes.
Back to that first step. Hallowell developed a series of 20 questions to help managers assess the best roles, projects and tasks for their employees. I have reformatted it and suggest trying it for yourself. It is a great tool for those considering changing jobs, starting a company or otherwise striking off onto a new path. On one hand it will help clarify what is best for you to do and on the other may help you realize what you are doing isn’t the inherent problem – perhaps it is a company culture, remuneration or other issue. Good luck with it! Answering the questions is not easy - it takes a bit of soul searching to decide what we really want, a bit of critical thinking to figure out what we're really good at. Comments about your experience are much appreciated.
Download the Hallowell Job Satisfaction Self-Assessment questionnaire.