EVENTS & INSIGHTS / INSIGHT

Should I stay or should I go? Work, happiness and the path to a sustainable career

by Shannon Houde

In my recent column on Greenbiz.com, I advised a community investment manager in the renewable energy sector decide whether to stay put in her current role or seek new pastures.

Sometimes our craving for something new and unknown is what keeps us from feeling happy with what we have. But while it is important to resist the urge for change simply for change’s sake, it is equally important to continue challenging ourselves in order to grow professionally, and thereby feel happy.

Reality check

In figuring out whether to stay or go, it’s useful to unpack the difference between the perceived reality of what a job change might look like and the reality of actually making that change. Rather than indulging in a ‘perfect job’ fantasy, try to imagine what would it feel like sitting at a new desk, in a new job, with new colleagues. How did you feel before you started your current role versus what you felt after your first month on the job?

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Next, identify your options if you were to move: would it be to an equivalent position at another company, to a different position within your current company, or a different position at a new company? Do a job search for each scenario and see if anything appeals to you. If it does, make contact with the employer and monitor your own reaction. What feelings come up? Do some research on the companies through their website and social media to visualize what it would be like to work there, warts and all.  Find people within the companies through LinkedIn to connect with by phone and get a real life sense of what is happening on the inside of the culture.

If you stay, share

If the results of your reality check tell you that your current job isn’t actually so bad, take some time to identify new ways that you personally can “create shared value” within your sphere of influence.

Take steps to nurture new connections by joining professional networks related to your passions or build on old ones. Social media also can help you identify someone in your professional circle with whom you can develop a mentoring relationship. We all need mentors to bounce ideas off, give us perspective and help us stay motivated in our career journey.   Chapter 5 of “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg is a great starting point for navigating the mentor selection process.

Try this experiment: Map out how you will share more, collaborate more and connect with other humans more, then implement your plan during the next three weeks. In the fourth week, review your progress. Are you any happier? If so, what worked?

If you go, find a niche

If you decide that only greener pastures will fulfill you, then get to know the current market and work on aligning these three core concepts:

• What you are great at

• What you love doing

• What the market needs

Find where they intersect and link that to a niche environmental or social problem that you can make your mission to fix. Mine is “getting the right people into the right jobs” because I saw so many hiring mistakes and so many candidates reacting to their career rather than driving it forward.

It’s not an easy job, but as succinctly put by a recent Harvard Business Review blog, “The happiest people pursue the most difficult problems.” Your task is to find the one that motivates you to succeed.

Be mindful, be proactive

The challenges you face in finding personal satisfaction and meaning within a sustainability job are common ones that can be overcome with mindful, proactive behavior. First try changing your own thinking, behaviours, habits, and, if that doesn’t work, then look at changing your job.

But don’t be beguiled by the mystery of the unknown: sustainable happiness is a long-term endeavor, and newness – while thrilling at first – can wear off quickly.

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