As a career coach, I’ve met with over a thousand men and women in a range of occupations and at all organizational levels. I start every session with a new client with the question: “So how would you rate your overall satisfaction with your work and career on a scale of 1 – 10?”
The responses to this opening question are always telling. I’ve noticed people consistently report similar feelings and experiences that can be associated with how they rate their work satisfaction along the 1 – 10 satisfaction scale (1 =low, 10=high).
When your rating is 5 or below it typically means you are experiencing a lot of stress and you probably aren’t leaving it at the office at the end of the day. People report dreading going to work, waking up at 4:00 a.m. obsessing about it and their self-esteem is taking a hit.
People report a host of personal impacts related to poor job fit, dealing with imposed change, clashing work and leadership styles and difficult relationships at work. When people report a satisfaction level of 5 and below they are usually feeling some significant pain, stress and frustration with their work situation. They usually have been trying to improve it, or hoping it will change for a while.
When people tell me their current satisfaction is 5 or below, my experience has shown me they are usually best served by focusing on finding their “next job” – not holding out for the perfect job. How come?
If you are at 5 or lower, accept you are in a storm and do what you need to do to get through it, and to a better place. Lower your expectations about your next job if it will be in the service of making a choice in your best interest. People can get paralyzed by holding higher standards than are necessary and end up stuck in a role that isn’t working, and becoming increasingly demoralized.
As you descend below 5 along the 1-10 satisfaction scale you are living a work experience that creates wounds and war stories. This isn’t the time to muse about what “could be”’ – because you can’t afford to wait. You also may be damaging your career and reputation by staying in a negative situation.
The next job doesn’t have to be a promotion to justify leaving your current one. Shoot for at least a 6 out of 10 job as your next one. These 6 out of 10 jobs are the functional “OK” jobs. The beauty of these jobs is they give you a chance to regroup and feel good about yourself at work again.
What are your “must haves” to be at a 6 out of 10? Think about how you can leverage your strengths and experience to create more choices and options. Look for roles that are in your wheelhouse and meet your minimum requirements for reasonable work (i.e. work that doesn’t drain you and require a support team to stay afloat.) Once you are settled you will have the time and energy to be more strategic about your next move.
Now, if the perfect job appears while you are looking for the next one – fantastic, but it’s not mandatory to make a move in the right direction. Remember, careers are more like marathons, not sprints. Every one’s career story has ups and downs and progress isn’t always linear.
How would you rate your job on a scale of 1-10? Is it time for you to make a move?