As a career counselor, I have witnessed the increasing desire for fulfilling work amongst my clients. Fulfillment is at the top of their “want” list in career development, for those experiencing career transitions or for those who are navigating and stepping through burnout.
The prioritizing of fulfillment as a personal criterion for work has emerged in conjunction with the pronounced shifts we are witnessing in the job market worldwide. These shifts include the increase in contractual employment, the emergence of the ‘gig’ economy, changes to the types of jobs that are available, increasing underemployment, and the reality of career transition(s) during one’s lifetime.
While financial stability and self-sufficiency are obvious and necessary criteria for work and career, the instability that has been created by these pronounced shifts in the job market has pushed fulfillment to a prominent spot.
As we reconceptualize how we work, how we experience work, and the value and meaning that work has for us, the desire to have work that is personally fulfilling takes more precedence. Further, work that is experienced as personally fulfilling is perceived as balancing or evening out the career adaptations and changes we are expected to absorb.
Career fulfillment is personally defined
What makes our work fulfilling? What are some of the factors we consider? More importantly, what do we expect or assume we will experience in order to define work as fulfilling?
Fulfillment does not have one convenient or generic definition. How fulfillment is experienced, defined and acted on is personal, contextual and fluid.
We increasingly want the work we do to be an extension of self-expression and to reflect the on-going development of our identity and capacities. We may want to make a personal mark of unique talent and skill on the world around us. Ideally, we would like the freedom to make career choices that are guided by our values and interests, and therefore experience the work we do as meaningful.
Career fulfillment is often experienced as:
- a correspondence or congruence between what we are doing – the actual job/task at hand – and our personal aspirations. We feel energized, engaged by what we do. We feel “alive”.
- a sense of authenticity - we recognize ourselves and our unique capacities in the work we do
- a certain freedom to make decisions regarding our lives and the work we choose to do
- a personal sense of purpose and meaning in what we are doing
- relatedness – we enjoy and participate in the collegial relationships around us
- contribution and belongingness - we feel connected to the world and we feel we have a place in the world
The question of fulfillment changes the conversation in career counseling
The desire for fulfilling work has also had an impact on the types of conversations clients wish to have in career counseling. These conversations are increasingly experiential.
A client’s reflections on and experiences of fulfillment in relation to work and career options can profoundly influence the direction, outcome and value of career counseling for that client.
Such experiential questions deserve attention. Through exploratory dialogue, we can provide the time and space for clients to examine, discover and bring perspective to:
- how they personally define fulfilling work
- how they assign meaning and value to their experiences of work
- how they work
- what unique expertise have they developed from their experiences
The content of these experiential conversations deepens awareness and perspective on these personal experiences and definitions of fulfillment. This helps both client and counselor to better understand the assumptions, expectations and desires the client has about career and work from the perspective of personal fulfillment. These conversations help to reveal what is possible, what actions a client and counselor can collaboratively map out and what decisions can be made.
Britt-Mari helps clients to explore the meaning of personal fulfillment during career transitions, burnout and career development. She is an integrative career counselor with an extensive background in existential psychology, career counseling and teaching. To book an initial 20-minute conversation contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org