As we're midway through the year, it's a good time to measure your current career satisfaction. Are you happy where you are, or do you need to make changes? Here are 10 questions to help you gauge your career satisfaction and pinpoint what, if anything, needs to change.
Career Satisfaction Checklist
Do you love your day-to-day role?
Are you in an industry that excites you?
Are you working and living in the geography and environment where you want to be?
Are you paid at or above your market value?
Do you have a career plan with clear goals defined for the next 6-12 months?
Do you have a long-term plan with a path to reach your goals?
Are you making progress on your goals?
Are you happy and fulfilled with your network?
Are your work habits and schedule sustainable?
Do you maintain outside interests, relationships, and priorities aside from your work?
Run through the list with a simple "Yes" or "No" to see your overall career satisfaction. Then, look at the "Yes" answers and rank them in order of how complete you feel, or if there could still be some improvement. Do the same for the "No" answers—rank them in order of what needs the most urgent attention now. Once you have your problem areas identified and ordered, pick out two or three that you want to work on now. For the others, set a reminder in your calendar to revisit, since career satisfaction is something easy to overlook in the busyness of everyday.
Improve Career Satisfaction with Small Steps
Each of these items is broad, so a comprehensive solution to improving your career satisfaction could likewise be broad—a career change, a renegotiation of your responsibilities, an overhaul of your schedule and prioritization between professional and personal. But with any broad category, there are always smaller items you can tackle, so don't assume that immediate improvements in career satisfaction are out of reach. If you don't like your day-to-day role, it could signal that you need to change jobs (a broad undertaking!) but that change might be accomplished by transferring departments within the same company. Or it could be that your role has some elements that you like, but not enough of them, and a candid conversation with your boss gets you reassigned to more of what you love to do.
If you're not in an industry that excites you, you could improve career satisfaction by switching industries. Alternatively, you could stay where you are, and start your shift by reading about other industries, joining meet-ups in another industry, or taking a class in a new area. A negative answer doesn't have to mean a complete overhaul.
If you don't know what you need—you're not making progress, you're unsure why, and career satisfaction takes a dip from your frustration—think of resources that could help, rather than trying to do it all yourself. Perhaps a former boss can give you some mentoring. Reading personal development books or biographies of people you admire can give you ideas and inspiration. Surveying friends and colleagues for their best ideas can point out just how many options there are—remember to just listen and not get bogged down by how you might implement all the suggestions.
Build Momentum to Make Larger Career Satisfaction Changes
The first step is to be aware of your career satisfaction. The immediate next steps should be small—prioritize what you want to tackle, make plans, do research. But eventually, a comprehensive solution is going to require more comprehensive actions and changes. Hopefully, by starting small and regularly checking in on your career satisfaction, you harness the motivation and momentum needed for those bigger changes.
Caroline coaches executives and entrepreneurs and is a member of the Columbia Career Coaches Network. She is a career columnist for Forbes.com and formerly wrote for Money.com, Time.com, CNBC, and Portfolio. She is the author of 3 books: "Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career" (2015, Forbes), "Six Steps To Job Search Success" (2011, Flat World Knowledge), and “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" (2010, Two Harbors Press). She teaches Professional Development and Negotiation courses at Columbia University and received a grant from the Jones New York Empowerment Fund for her work with the mid-career professional. A classically trained pianist at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, Caroline stays active in the arts, performing stand-up comedy.