(This article is part of Live Career’s Job Action Day, Nov. 2, an annual movement that looks to empower workers and job seekers through insights from movers and shakers in the career world. This year’s theme is Act II: Finding Career Satisfaction After 50.)
How can you find career satisfaction after 50? I travel around the country speaking about exactly that and have written motivational books on the subject, including Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness and Getting the Job You Want after 50.
Here are seven ways I think can help you find career satisfaction after 50:
1. Focus on your “inner job.” When I ask people what they love about their job, they often say it’s the people they work with, the opportunity to learn and to travel and the freedom to work from home. So, for your next job, you may want to accept less pay than what you earned before and even a title with less status in exchange for psychic fulfillment.
2. Build in flexibility. Talk with enough happy workers over 50 and you’ll find that one of their secrets is the ability to mold the day-to-day job to their specifications. That can mean controlling their work schedules, telecommuting when they want to and having opportunities to pursue professional passions.
Stepping up as an advocate, or sponsor, for someone younger can pay you back in ways you never imagined.
3. Add new skills. Drill down and do some soul-searching to figure our how you can get better at what you do and learn how to do things that will make you more marketable at this job or the next one — or to start a business. Even adding small skills has the potential to deliver big returns.
A 58-year-old producer at 60 Minutes told me that while he loves producing great pieces for a primetime network news show, he’s well aware that his field is in flux. To keep fresh, every year he sets himself a goal — to learn someone else’s job, add skills or study something new.
It’s mentally engaging and gets him out of his comfort zone. It also allows him to have a better appreciation of the work his coworkers perform and builds a sense of camaraderie whenever he asks them to teach him. “I guess the best part of it is that I get a kick out of learning something new that helps me do my job better,” he says. “I love that.”
4. Raise your hand for new assignments. It’s easy to avoid or turn down new job projects that feel like a stretch. You may worry whether you have the chops to succeed and fear that you’ll fail. Use that fear and anxiety to deliver a rush of adrenaline.
Shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing it.”
5. Find happiness on the edges. You might get involved in an industry group during after-work hours; being valued by peers outside of your office can be rewarding and send a message back to home base that you’re valuable.
Similarly, stepping up as an advocate, or sponsor, for someone younger can pay you back in ways you never imagined. You could mentor someone who may not even work for your employer but who’s in your line of work. Or you could volunteer along with co-workers.
These kinds of things will not only make you proud you’re doing good, they could lead to a promotion or raise if word about your activities trickles back to your boss.
6. Connect more with your colleagues. The human touch provides a genuine happiness boost. So, make a point of stopping by someone’s office just to ask how it’s going. Really listen to others and be present. Celebrate your co-workers’ professional and personal successes.
Interact with others at work more and chances are that new opportunities will crop up.
7. Find a purpose. For many people over 50, the heart of job satisfaction is purpose. As Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, told me (with genuine passion rippling through her voice): “I love the mission of what I am doing.”
Little wonder, I say. We all want to do something we’re proud of and feel like we’re helping others (whether they’re people or animals) and contributing to the community.
When you believe in the mission of your employer — whether it’s a nonprofit or a for-profit — your work matters and makes a difference. That’s a win all around.
To sum it up, I’d say that to truly find satisfaction in your job, you have to choose happiness.
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