It’s not that complex

In the last ten years of working with mid-life adults on finding the right work which aligns interests and abilities, I have come to the conclusion that the criteria for the RIGHT work is very similar.

Make a living and make it interesting

People need to provide an income for themselves and this is a priority. But I have discovered as people approach 40, they are no longer willing to make the trade-off between just making money and not enjoying what they do. It becomes equally important to do work which is in fact interesting. I have also found that despite how MUCH money people make, the work which is not interesting does not last very long. When people continue to do work for JUST the money over a long period of time, health issues and psychological issues start to build depression and angst.

A healthy culture which matches one’s values

This is an area which many people don’t consider until it’s too late. A work culture consists of behavior and values which is different for each organization. It is important to understand what type of work environment would match your values. For example, if you cared about health, you might not want to select a tobacco company to work for. Or if you cared about making a difference in people’s lives through healthy living, then perhaps working on Wall Street for a firm that trades stocks might also not work for you. A culture is not going to change in order to fit you; you must choose the environment which fits you best.

A place to grow, further enhance self-identity and raise self-esteem

Most organizations look at their employees as a means to an end-profit – the more productive the better. Rarely help for self-esteem, self-identity, or personal growth is high on the organizational agenda. So, it becomes critical for a person to select the right work which helps personal development.

Stability and security

This is where the widest gap can be found. People want stability and security and the organization views its people on a short term orientation based on results. Again, it is up to you to select work which is stable and secure. In a difficult economy this is not easy. The best approach is to choose 4-5 streams of revenue. You might have a full-time job and two roles on the outside making additional income. Or you might have 3 part-time jobs. Or you might have 1 part-time job and several contractor roles. You have to create your own stability and security and not ever expect an organization to create this for you. This is not part of their agenda.

An organizational mission you can relate to

Yes, it is important to work at a place which you believe in. If you don’t believe in or even understand the mission of the organization, then don’t work there. You will not feel a connection and will quickly lose energy each day you go to work.

Nice people to work with, grow relationships

Most of our social networks come from those who we work with. If you choose work which you do not enjoy or organizations which you do not believe in, chances are you will not connect with the people who work there.

A manager who believes in them

Most of the time, it is the luck of the draw to end up with a strong manager who believes in you. If you do, feel fortunate as this is rare. If you end up working for a manager who is so focused on goals, that you don’t feel you are viewed as a person with a life, then this will slowly cause issues. Make a plan to find a new home where you feel supported.

What do people want from their work?

Most of us want the same. Finding RIGHT work which is both enjoyable and helps you develop takes hard choices around where to work and what to do. With a proactive approach toward developing work which is perfect for you, you will find that your life and sense of purpose takes on new meaning. You will feel in control again. You will find joy in your day. You will never look back!

I’ll be cheering you on as you go!

Craig Nathanson