How your attitudes and daily habits shape how you feel about and perform at work

(Thrive Global) Put simply, Career Wellbeing is how you feel about your job today, your career prospects tomorrow and how your work is helping you achieve what you want out of life. Career Wellbeing isn’t just about how we feel about work, research from Gallup has found it has a huge impact across our lives. 

“People with high Career Wellbeing are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall.”

Rath and Harter, Wellbeing: The 5 essential elements, Gallup 2010

High Career Wellbeing is where we all should be right? Unfortunately, we can get stuck in the low Career Wellbeing trap. It’s happened to me. 

Stuck in a career rut

We can get stuck in a career rut, resenting today, wondering where we are going tomorrow, and whether our work even serves any real purpose in the bigger scheme of our lives. And this kind of thinking only makes us feel worse.

Working in organisations I find lots of people who have got caught-up in negative, pessimistic or low patterns of thinking, and find it impossible to get themselves out of that funk. It’s human, but it isn’t healthy for us in the long run.  The research shows that low Career Wellbeing impacts our productivity and performance.

“Those with low Career Wellbeing begin to disengage from work after just 20 hours of work in a given week. They spend less than 50% of the working week engaged and productive.”

Harter and Arora, The impact of time spent working and job fit on well-being around the world, Oxford University Press 2009

Low Career Wellbeing warning signs

Being aware of our Career Wellbeing, and understanding how important it is, can help us to recognise when we may not be at our best.

I’m sure there are times when you have fallen in the low Career Wellbeing trap. I know I have. Maybe you felt:

  • misunderstood by your leader or colleagues and didn’t feel that you had friends at work,

  • fearful for your future in an organisation that was restructuring, or

  • frustrated that you weren’t where you felt you should be in your career.

Low engagement is a challenge organisations face around the world. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that it seriously impacts enthusiasm and productivity.

“85% of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work .”

State of the Global Workplace, Gallup 2017

5 elements of Career Wellbeing

Let’s think about the times when you have really enjoyed work (hopefully that’s where you are right now). When you reflect on those times you might see a pattern. You:

  1. Understood what was important to you.

  2. Had a goal that work was helping you to achieve.

  3. Surrounded by people you trusted and respected.

  4. Used your strengths and really enjoyed being challenged.

  5. Understood the practical reality of getting things done in the organisation.

2 steps you can take to improve your Career Wellbeing

Step 1 – Understand why you are at work. 

  • It could be to buy a house, to support your family, to go travelling, to make a difference in the world.

  • The reason doesn’t matter, what matters is that you know what your purpose is.

  • That clarity helps to motivate you at work.

“A goal, once accepted and understood, remains in the periphery of consciousness as a reference point for guiding and giving meaning to subsequent mental and physical actions.”

Locke and Latham, New directions in goal-setting theory, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2006

Step 2 – Talk to people you respect and trust.

  • Work isn’t perfect, you may be in a team where you don’t feel completely safe to speak-up or ask questions.

  • Reach out to people you do respect and trust, whether that is in your organisation or outside.

  • Connection is critical to our mental health and wellbeing, make sure you are regularly connecting with people you like.

  • Loneliness is a real danger in organisations make sure you are aware of the tools and resources that are out there to help you connect

“Loneliness can lead to diminished productivity, emotional stress, withdrawal from the team or absence from work, and weaker team performance.”

American Psychiatric Association’s ‘Centre for Workplace Mental Health’, 2019

Improve your Career Wellbeing today

The great news is that you are already well on your way to understanding Career Wellbeing. The next step is making Career Wellbeing mean something real to you.

Ultimately, you want to enjoy your job today, feel confident about your career prospects tomorrow and be clear on how work is contributing to what you want to get out of life.


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