When you have had a terrific day at work, what happened? What sparked joy for you? Did you solve a problem, delight a customer, help a co-worker, launch a new initiative, or finally succeed in your evil plan for global world domination? (Hey, we don’t judge.) What sparked joy for you?
Conversely, when you came home exhausted, what happened (or what didn’t happen)?
Sometimes you need to clear out the clutter in your career. Maybe you love 70% of what you do, but 30% of your responsibilities are drudgery. Or maybe the job you once loved is no longer rewarding to you because the environment changed, or the team changed, or you just stopped growing.
If there are elements of your work that no longer fit, it might be time to Marie Kondo your career (or more precisely, to use the KonMari method). I once quit half of my job; it took a year to disengage from those responsibilities, but ultimately I got back to doing what I loved in the same organization. Sometimes the organization is the problem and you need to look for a new employer. So what do you look for?
When you’re in the right job, you are often playing to your strengths, using your skills, making an impact and achieving results consistently. The work might not be easy, but you know what is expected, you know how to tackle the problems and you prevail often enough to feel successful. Your team and the work environment amplify your efforts and carry you along, going with the flow. Other work environments play to your weaknesses, stifle your progress, limit your contributions, thwart your initiative and leave you feeling exhausted at the end of the day. Being in the wrong job or with the wrong team feels like swimming upstream against the current. Your colleagues and your work environment should be a “force enabler” — allowing you to be more successful than you would be on your own. The right work environment charges your battery, and the wrong one drains it.
Most elements of your job should “spark joy.” Work isn’t supposed to be easy — the best jobs often involve quite a bit of complexity, subtlety, and judgment. But if the job is right for you, you enjoy solving the puzzles inherent in the work. (For example, I like solving staffing problems and don’t like solving accounting and IT problems. The firms who support our accounting and IT like solving accounting and IT problems and don’t like solving staffing problems.)
We all have our preferences, and we all like solving different kinds of problems. In our Guide to Job Search, we recommend that you consider your strengths as superpowers — the things you know you do really well, and the kinds of skills that other people comment on. Those skills may come naturally to you, but not to everyone. The Guide will walk you through how to identify your superpowers, and how to find a new employer who really needs a superhero like you.
4/15/20 Update: In a recent interview for Harvard Business Review, Marie said, “When you repeatedly ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” you begin to see what is meaningful to you. If that becomes a natural behavior, you apply it to everything—your home, your work and career, your relationships, even what you eat. It becomes a rhythm, and then you can see to the bottom of your heart what you want to do with your life.“