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Should Your Career Provide Fulfillment?


Man in a Blue Suit

Should your career provide fulfillment? Sure, why not? Thank you for attending my Ted Talk.


Personal fulfillment is a topic frequented by young professionals. Careers are not off-limits when it comes to that conversation. It is often at the forefront. Now more than ever, intangibles such as corporate culture, social responsibility and politics are all apart of assessing the compatibility of our values and the companies we choose to work for.


Happiness v. Fulfillment

The question often used to gauge fulfillment is, “are you happy doing your job?” It’s a loaded question. Without taking the time to define what happiness within your career means, it would be difficult to give a sincere answer. Also, “feeling happy”, as a metric, can discount the frustrating, stressful, and even defeating work that’s also personally and professionally rewarding. Your career can still be fulfilling without always making you feel happy.


Fulfillment will change from one individual to the next. So, how can we decide if a particular career path will be fulfilling? Is it naive to think that we can have personal fulfillment in a career? Do we have to sacrifice earning potential to feel good about the job that we do? Trying to discuss as personal and nuanced a topic as fulfillment in detail is never going to apply perfectly to everyone. However, there are some points to consider that can shape the conversation.


What You Value

Two Headed Arrow Traffic Sign

We spend up to a third of your lives, sometimes more, working. It is a huge investment. The pursuit of meaning in your career is worthwhile. Wanting to pursue work that is aligned with your beliefs, values and that will ultimately make you feel good about what you do is extremely fulfilling.


That being said, your career is also the vehicle that creates your livelihood. It’s how you provide for yourself and your family. Garnering meaning and fulfillment outside of your career is no less worthwhile. For some, work is just work and fulfillment lives elsewhere.


Deciding how you will pursue personal fulfillment gives you the confidence that you’ll need on that journey.


Who You Are

Person from the Back Wearing Winter Clothes

One of my high school teachers once told me, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” You won’t find fulfillment in pursuing a career if you don’t know what fulfillment looks like for you. You’ll just set yourself up for disappointment and frustration. So, examine your values and make it a priority to pursue whatever it is that inspires you.


It’s okay to be on a journey and figure out what you’re looking for as you go along. But, that will require a certain level of openness to how things are and not necessarily how you may want them to be. You may have conflicting desires to have a certain type of work but have another type of lifestyle. Don’t let these types of inconsistencies discourage you, instead find ways to pursue all the things that you value, even if it’s on a small scale.


What You Want

Person Climbing Mountain With an Axe

No book says you have to pursue one particular path because of who you are or what you believe in. And, if there is, maybe skip reading it. Growing up I was tunnel-visioned into fulfilling my parents’ expectations of maturity, success, and well-being. It wasn’t until after I was able to accomplish their dreams that I started to question what mine were. Fulfillment begins when you start being true to yourselves and pursuing the paths that you define.


On your journey of personal fulfillment figure out what motivates and inspires you. Do you have to get to a particular result or does just being on the journey brings satisfaction? Is personal growth and development what’s important or is it the impact you have on others? These are questions that only you can answer. You define what personal fulfillment looks like for you and whether or not your career needs to play a role in its accomplishment.