The Four P's of Career Satisfaction

Posted by Sarah Baicker on June 16, 2011
The Four P's of Career Satisfaction

Your career should be about more than paying the bills. Ideally, it should be energizing and provide you with spiritual, as well as financial, rewards. But how do you figure out whether a prospective career is right for you?

Before embarking on the job hunt, it's crucial to be honest with yourself about your skills and interests-employers will want both factors to mesh with the job you're seeking. Talking to your school's career center can help you get a handle on this; many offer clinics and counseling workshops intended to help fine-tune your understanding of where you might fit best into the business world.

Tory Johnson, founder and CEO of Women for Hire, a recruiting service for women, frequently advocates what we've nicknamed "The Four P's": four steps to help you set your professional objectives. Whether you already have specific goals or you're not yet sure exactly what career path to take, the following four exercises can bring focus to your aspirations.

Pinpoint exactly what kind of job would make you excited to wake up every day-the kind of work that will energize and push you to perform at your best. Are you someone who thrives on initiating relationships and making the sale? Do you work best in a creative team environment? "For someone who's starting from scratch, making sure passion is a part of her career is very important," Johnson says. "She needs to be able to hold her head up high knowing that her work has a purpose."

As much as loving what you do is important, so is loving where you do it. Your passion may be in sales, but it might be more important for you to work in an organization where you'd be selling a service rather than advertisements. Limiting the scope of the types of places at which you'd like to work can help you develop a list of potential employers-both for the short term and years down the road. The same is true for geographical location-as much as you may covet a job at, say, a Silicon Valley high-tech company, you might need to be close to your family in the Northeast in order to be truly happy. 

"The people you work alongside should be a big issue as you consider your career," Johnson says, "because there are so many people who like what they do but hate who they work with." To avoid winding up in a negative environment, Johnson recommends that asking your contacts questions about the company's culture and management style before you take a job.

There's certainly a grain of truth to the belief that a low-paying job at the right place can be a good way to get a foot in the door. But salary is important. Depending on your education level, you can leave more than $1 million on the bargaining table over the duration of your career by not negotiating. No matter your chosen industry or ultimate career goals, it is important to make sure that you will be able to maintain a satisfactory lifestyle on your salary.

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