8 mistakes we make that lead to unsatisfying work

For those who have a job in this economy of ever-rising unemployment, under employment and general malaise, it seems almost ungrateful to complain about anything that produces a paycheck. But over a 50-year span, the average American spends about 100,000 hours working. With so much of our lives spent at our jobs, sometimes it is important to stop and consider a question that may sound childish or unrealistic in this job market: What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s not an easy question to answer for most. More than half of all students change majors at least once, and a recent survey found that the average American man changes jobs every four and one-half years, the average woman every three years. The model of employee and employer forming a lifelong relationship no longer fits. And with 42 consecutive weeks of unemployment over 8 percent (using the most optimistic of job numbers), many have found that their job loyalty meant nothing in a bad economy.

Today choosing a career is generally not a one-time decision; it's a series of decisions, made through different stages of life, experience, and responsibility. But with more than 60 percent of Americans saying they are not satisfied with their current jobs, it seems obvious that it’s time to consider new patterns for choosing a profession.

For students choosing a course of study or for those considering what kind of work will stand the test of time, Crown Financial Ministries spent more than 10-years developing and fine tuning Career Direct® using standard psychometric principles of testing and measurement and putting those to work in 17 languages, reaching  more than 120,000 adults and students worldwide. It asks up front the basic question of life – who are you? – before telling you how to spend most of your waking hours during your adult years.

On the cutting edge of self-evaluation is the question of values and what kinds of choices produce meaning. Meaning has a high value especially for millennials, the current generation of new graduates, but they are not alone in that regard.

For those with a faith perspective, the fact that people are “fearfully and wonderfully” made begs the question, what are my unique skills and talents? The success of faith-oriented dating websites show that today there is an appreciation for core values in making a lifetime choice. And that includes seeking a job as well.

Job seekers may also be interested to learn that Crown also identified 8 common errors people make when taking a job and when trying to find a career that will satisfy:

1. Choosing the first or easiest job you can get. To choose a job based on its ease is not being a good steward of talents and abilities. Our goal should always be to move into areas in which we  use our strengths.

2. Choosing a job based on salary. This error is so established in our culture that it'll take a strong commitment to a larger vision to choose a job based on talents, rather than on money alone. And if that high-paying job disappears, your resume advertises you with skills in a profession you may hate.

3. Choosing a job because it provides a good title. Doing what you're good at and what you enjoy is generally a far better consideration in choosing a career than selecting a title and doing the work that accompanies it. You are not your title.

4. Taking a job just because management offers it. Discuss your work-related attributes with your employer to indicate the areas that will be the best fit for you. You may be better off expanding your area of responsibility in your present job, instead of moving away from your skills and area of expertise.

5. Choosing a job because that's what your parents do. Don't choose a career track because that's what your parents do. Discover your gifts and develop your career plans around them.

6. Choosing a job to fulfill your parents’ unfulfilled dream. Parents must be careful not to steer their children toward something the parents would like alone; rather, children should be encouraged to follow a career path that best suits them.

7. Choosing a job just because you have the minimum ability to do it. There are many jobs we can do, but a job that involves our strongest skills, our personalities, and our motivations will take us farther and last longer.

8.  Choosing a job or major without any serious study of yourself. Evaluation tools, such as Career Direct® and others exist to provide a roadmap so that people can avoid becoming lost in pursuits that don’t satisfy without knowing why. Before investing years of your life or possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in education, take serious time to reflect on your skills and interest. Don’t spend more time researching the next car you’ll buy than you spend researching your career.

In this economy, faith about work is dead. The traditional models have failed, and many struggle with regret over their past work choices.

It’s time to consider new tools for reaching our potential and to be as deliberate in our choice of majors and jobs as possible. With one in two new college graduates jobless or underemployed, we need to utilize our intellects to create lasting opportunity. Primarily, we need to understand who we were uniquely created to be before we can fully understand how to best spend our energy over a lifetime.

Robert Dickie, III, is president of Crown Financial Ministries, a non-profit that for more than 35 years has equipped people and businesses with the tools needed to integrate values with financial practices for a well-rounded success that impacts more than just the bottomline. www.crown.org