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Dr Lindsay Joyce is an HCPC registered psychologist specialising in bringing psychological theory to work-place contexts. You can find out more about her work here. In this blog article, she provides a helpful exercise for figuring out what motivates you & what you enjoy in a job.
The idea for this blog post came when I was talking to someone recently who was working in banking (- this is a clear warning never to engage in conversation with a psychologist!) When I asked this individual if they enjoyed their job they grinned at me, and with a glint in their eye told me that they “loved being a banker”. I mentioned that this was an interesting way to word a response – it’s a very different thing to love being a banker and to love working in banking. As far as I could deduce, this individual didn’t particularly enjoy the day-to-day elements of their job, they didn’t feel inspired by their colleagues and they didn’t look at senior positions with a burning sense of ambition. What they really loved was being able to tell their friends they were a banker – it was more than just the salary they were earning; it was the prestige of the job role, the allure of working in the city, the evenings spent at exclusive clubs and the feeling that they were always at the right party with the right people.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
It taught me a valuable lesson – it made me realise that for some people the lifestyle they achieve through the job they do can be more important than any other considerations. For this guy, being able to tell people he was a banker in the city made all of the long hours staring at a computer screen entirely worthwhile. He wasn’t interested in hearing about my socially motivated aspirations – for him even the thought of being a psychologist was awful. Where were the perks?
So, we come back to the same problem that we have discussed before – the idea that you have to know what you want and what interests or motivates you in order to feel aligned with the job that you are doing. But you also need to make sure that you think about what you enjoy without any sense of guilt or judgement – don’t let my or anyone else’s values about careers sway you. If you haven’t done so already then please read my first blog post about ‘Insight‘. Another useful exercise is described below:
- On the left–hand side of a page make a list of some of the things you most enjoy doing outside of work
- On the right-hand side of the page try to identify what it is you actually enjoy about each particular activity – is it the company of friends? Is it a sense of relaxation? Is it a sense of achievement?
- Work through as many activities as you can and try to see if there are any obvious links or repeated words/phrases. For example – lots of things on my list would involve the enjoyment I get from spending time talking to interesting friends, and other things would involve delicious food and wine.
- Try to note if there are any elements of your job which also allow you to experience/enjoy these things. For example, in my job I get to talk to lots of interesting people, although there are no opportunities to enjoy nice food and wine! I should imagine that on my friend the banker’s list lots of his enjoyment would come from experiencing luxury goods and services, which happily his job also allows him to do.
As ever, the point I’m trying to make is that if you can identify some things that you enjoy in your personal life, and you can achieve even just a few of them in a career, then you stand a good chance of finding job satisfaction and success. Just try to be honest with yourself and not judge your answers with mine or society’s values. You only have to find a job which makes you happy – not other people.
If you are still struggling to think what motivates you at work, then have a look at my blog posts on ‘Motivation’ and ‘Insight’. However, if you are starting to recognise some of the things you might want to find in your next career prospect, then look at the opportunities live now on movemeon.com!