In this year’s Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey, we learn that just over 98% of us most value a good working environment, closely followed by fair rewards (97.6%) and challenging work (94.6%). While we are relatively balanced about what will keep us working with an organisation, there is a much more distinctive reason that will make us leave, with the majority of us putting our search to find better financial remuneration first.
This creates a risky situation for our career happiness. Financial remuneration often provides short-term satisfaction, which can blind us to the other important facets of our job. If we put money first when looking at new job opportunities, we may find other key motivators lacking when we acclimatise to the first few payslips. I speak from experience, having done this several times in my early career, only to find myself feeling unfulfilled and unchallenged within six months.
I’m not saying money isn’t important. It is. It provides security and, rightly or wrongly, is wrapped up in our psychological associations of success and status. However, if you’re one of the 40% of people looking to change jobs in the next 12 months, it’s important to evaluate potential opportunities more broadly, both by thinking about organisational and role fit – something which looks different for all of us. When you understand this, you can ask much better questions when you’re exploring roles.
Much of this is in your own control and the questions below can help to counteract the power of the pound sign in your mind. Even if you’re not looking to move in the next 12 months, reflecting on these questions can help you to have more focused and self-directed development conversations with your managers.
Key question 1: What is important to you about where you work, how you work and who you work with?
This question provides some clues about your personal values. Aligning our work with our values ensures we can be more authentic and happier in our jobs. Your answer to this question will create a unique set of needs for you to consider when thinking about your career opportunities.
I like to work in fast-paced environments, where people operate with high degrees of freedom and the people I work with have almost geeky levels of intelligence. Understanding this helps me to understand what’s lacking in my organisation if I’m feeling frustrated and the sort of things I need to validate that exist in any business I move to. As a result, you’re able to ask much more informed questions in interviews that tell you what you really need to know.
Key question 2: What am I great at and how does this create value?
Many people struggle to explain what their strengths are. Even those who can articulate their strengths don’t take it to the next stage in connecting that strength with the value it creates for your employer. It’s very important to understand this, as working with your ‘super strengths’ makes you happier at work and you need to work in roles where you have the best opportunity to make use of these talents.
As a result, you’ll also be more successful in your role, which will provide its own motivational rewards. Make sure you are clear on your top two or three super strengths and evaluate opportunities against them to ensure you’ll get to make use of these in your role.
Key question 3: When have I been happiest and most frustrated in my previous roles and why?
Write down all your previous roles and, against each one, note down the highs and the lows. Once you’ve done that, take a step back and look for consistencies in what you’ve written. For me, my happiest times have been in roles where I have been involved from the start in developing new products and launching new businesses.
I have a common theme of frustration when operational tasks take me away from thinking, exploring and being creative. Look for your own themes and use these to assess your current role and new roles. You can use a high/medium/low flag to identify areas of concern that need to be explored more fully before making big decisions.
Taking time to reflect on these questions is so important to your long-term career happiness. A high salary is just a sticking plaster if you move from one role to another without understanding them.