How to Make Your Own Career Fulfillment

The most valuable of life’s opportunities have a curious propensity of nesting themselves far into the distal peripheries of casual reality. When it comes to your career and business, you cannot afford to passively follow traditional footsteps and outdated notions of career path. What it means to have careers and be happy in them has evolved and it is necessary to evolve with it in order to find that seemingly elusive fulfillment in your work.

One way to understand work fulfillment is to think of it as existing in 4 Levels of Abstraction:

  1. Unemployment — pretty self-explanatory
  2. Unfulfilling Employment — this is where a great many find themselves
  3. Fulfilling Work — we will explore how to attain this
  4. Vocation/Calling/Life’s Purpose— this is where you should be aiming

Fulfilling Work

According to Roman Krznaric in his book How to Find Fulfilling Work, there are 3 components to a fulfilling work: Meaning, Flow and Freedom. The thing is that there is no such thing as the ideal career; most people are fully capable of being engaged and developing expertise in a variety of fields so there may instead be a range of careers that suit you. When you over-specialize, you risk harnessing only a small portion of all you really are. The key is to identify what types and areas of work hold Meaning for the different facets of you.

For some of us, this may actually require what Paula Caligiuri called in her book Get A Life Not A Job “multiple career acts,” whereby you are engaged in income-generating activities outside your regular occupation that complement your diverse capabilities in ways that your regular occupation does not. Allowing yourself to explore and engage in works that leverage your other talents and help you pursue your other passions gives your careers more meaning. When those other activities generate additional income simultaneously, you may find meaning in the added security of not putting all your financial eggs in one basket. Deriving meaning through multiple remunerative career acts is more in line with the realities of contemporary career, business and life success.

Its not enough though to appreciate the meaning in the work you do; your work needs to have a high degree of “Flow content,” says Krznaric. Flow in your work and business is that day-to-day enjoyment of what you do, those frequent moments when you are so deeply engaged in what you are doing that you lose track of time. In addition, a fulfilling work should offer some measure of Freedom such as time to work, place to work, which team you work with, what creative tasks you perform and even which boss your report to, if any. “Finding” a fulfilling career is actually not a one time event, but a process and fulfillment is not an absolute measure, but a relative one. Recognize these components of fulfilling work and let them actively drive your micro career decisions and actions which will culminate over time into increased fulfillment.

Vocation/Calling/Life’s Purpose

Yet, there is a higher Level of Abstraction when it comes to work fulfillment: vocation. Your vocation or calling is essentially your purpose in life, the work you were put on this planet to do. You do it for a greater purpose and you pop out of bed everyday eager to do more of it. Again, “finding” your vocation is not a one time event, but also a process. As Krznaric explained, a vocation is something you grow and grow into. You must be active though in cultivating it by consciously making definite career decisions and taking actions to explore and discover what you like, what you are good at, what your passions are and what type of work arrangement give you the greatest Flow. Over time, the vocational seed you sow through this active path will begin to germinate and flower into a vibrant way of life.

You Don’t Find Career Fulfillment, You Make it

Back when material prosperity was not yet democratized, we could not afford to consider fulfillment and purpose in the work we do because all our intellectual capacity was devoted toward putting the next food on the table. But for most in the Western world, times have changed and the rules of the game with it. You cannot opt to be a spectator, for you are in the game for better or for worse; fulfillment in life and work is an essential ingredient that nourishes the soul and we can learn how to attain it. Attaining work fulfillment is an active process, involving you taking definite actions from making that seemingly difficult career decision to starting on that business idea you have had in your head for some time, even if part time for now. Taking action allows you to discover those opportunities that exist in the margins of everyday regular life. Begin with the 4th Level of Abstraction, your vocation or purpose in life, and work your way back with actions that get you closer to that life’s purpose. You need to work towards some purpose, even if you do not yet know the purpose and allow yourself to pivot and adjust as you press forward. Having a higher purpose drive your everyday micro decisions and micro actions allows you to have a clear sense of direction in your career path. Thus, you do not find career fulfillment, you make career fulfillment.