In coaching individuals on their levels of career satisfaction and engagement I became curious about current market stats on that very topic.  Given the continually poor economic climate, are employees simply happy and grateful to have a job?  Do they wish to pursue other career aspirations but fearful of giving up that steady paycheck?  Are they wanting to interview for other positions but feel frustrated in this employer's market?    

In my research I discovered that there has been a growing trend of employee dissatisfaction and disengagement over the past few decades.  A recent article in Forbes Magazine states “At a time of high unemployment, lackluster job growth and major uncertainty in world financial markets, many employees feel stuck in their jobs, unable to consider a career move even if they’re unhappy.” In fact, Right Management in early 2012 polled over 400 workers in the US and Canada among whom only 19% said they were “satisfied” with their jobs.   I began to wonder what is creating this shift toward employee dissatisfaction and lack of career fulfillment? 
My career transition coaching business, From the Inside Out Coaching, LLC, aims to help clients answer two vital questions: “Am I unhappy internally which is resulting in my unhappiness at work?”  or “Am I internally happy and doing the wrong type of work?”  Finding the answer to these questions will help determine which path the client will choose to take to improve his or her work and life path.  One of my missions is to help clients identify if it’s the actual work or if it’s a deeper personal issue that is causing the dissatisfaction or lack of fulfillment in their careers. 

There are multiple other reasons employees could be dissatisfied with work including a negative working relationship with their boss, getting paid less than perceived worth, and lack of work/life balance.  While job security has consistently been a top reason people stay at their jobs, does it really offer true fulfillment to simply “have a job?”   According to the SHRM 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey published Oct. 3, 2012, “opportunities to use skills and abilities” now holds the top spot on the list of job satisfaction drivers (63 percent), placing job security (61 percent) in second place for the first time since 2007, when compensation and pay topped the list.  This study proves the growing aspiration of employees to use their natural skills and abilities in their work.  This opportunity has outpaced even job security and compensation as key motivators for work satisfaction.  This research should instigate managers to develop their existing employees, especially those who could be utilizing their gifts but, for whatever reason, have not had the opportunity.  

The concept of "job happiness" is definitely gaining momentum with the workforce’s youngest generation.  The “Millennial” generation greatly values “making an impact” and “learning” much more than previous generations. “Multiple studies find that today’s younger workers have absolutely no intention of sticking around if they don’t feel like they’re learning, growing and being valued in a job.”  (“This Is The Biggest Reason Talented Young Employees Quit Their Jobs,” Business Insider).  Compensation, which has consistently been the top motivator for employees, is now competing with less conventional motivators including being treated with respect, learning new skills and career growth.  These concepts certainly were not as prevalent or thought about in previous decades.  There is a huge trend today towards more than just earning a big paycheck.  Younger employees desire their employers to make more than just financial investments in them as valued contributors to the organization. 

So what kinds of careers out there have high satisfaction rates?  Studies have shown there seems to be a strong correlation between high satisfaction and jobs that help others.  The NORC at the University of Chicago research indicates the key to career fulfillment is finding a job that involves helping or giving back to others.  Their research says the top three most satisfying careers are those of clergy, physical therapists, and firefighters.  If a person truly values “giving back” and “making a positive impact on society” then they could find great fulfillment in pursuing fields that serve others.  The questions is “Are you willing to give up that paycheck or go back to school for a new career?”  Does one’s desire to pursue what is deeply valued outweigh an attractive salary and job security?

Research continues to prove that people are most energized when they are using their strengths, gifts, and talents for a bigger purpose beyond themselves.  My role as a coach is to help others identify their passion, strengths and gifts and find ways to connect those attributes to their work.  My company tagline of “connecting inner passion with outer purpose” is precisely my own purpose.  Once strengths, gifts, and passions have been identified there will more than likely be a few options for the client.  A client could possibly apply her passion and strengths to her current job.  Increased job happiness could be a matter of showing the client a new perspective on how she can better utilize her strengths in the workplace.  Conversely, identifying these strengths could lead to a revelation that the client is in the wrong type of work.  She might not ever be able to utilize her gifts in her current role and need to pursue another path.  Whatever the case, once the client figures out the “right type” of work for her, a decision would need to be made to pursue that new career or stay put.  Of course, that decision is always a personal choice for each individual.  My role is to help the client evaluate all the options and provide clarity to help them make the best choice. 

The road to career purpose and fulfillment can be paved with fear, doubt and uncertainty.  But I can say from personal experience, in the end, it is worth every challenging step and the results can be incredibly rewarding.  It’s up to the client to decide if the transition is worth the journey.  As I have learned recently, when it comes to major decisions, action is only taken when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.