InHerSight asked recruiter Sonia Ashok to share ways to find fulfillment, even if your job isn’t ticking all the boxes. These are her answers, in her own words. Are you a recruiter with job advice to share? Email our managing editor Beth Castle at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
What’s your elevator pitch?
My name is Sonia Ashok. I am a physician and happiness-at-work coach. After pivoting through roles in medicine, public policy, and tech, I recognized the struggles that many working women were dealing with as they navigated through their career journeys. I founded the Connective Coalition as a global movement to empower women to be more confident, more resilient, and more successful in their careers. My vision is to create an army of strong female leaders who will lift up the next generation.
Not all jobs are engaging or feel “important.” How often do you find that affecting the women you work with? What problems typically arise when employees don’t feel fulfilled by their work?
Many women are in jobs in which they don’t find intrinsic meaning or value. Sometimes you have to take a job because it provides a paycheck or is giving you much-needed experience while you advance in the workplace. Having a job where you don’t feel aligned can feel draining and monotonous. It can affect your productivity and your happiness. If you don’t feel motivated, you may suffer from procrastination and distraction, and your work quality can take a big hit.
I often think “fulfillment” is asking too much of your career and workplace. Do you have to be fulfilled by what you do? What can you do outside work to give you that sense of accomplishment and wholeness?
Not everyone is going to find deep personal meaning in their work—and that’s ok. Research has shown that you’re much more likely to thrive in your role when you feel a connection to it. But, you can certainly find other ways to be happy and fulfilled outside of your day job.
Hobbies are a great way to pursue other interests and even gain new skills. Whether you decide to find a hobby that’s just for fun, or you create a side-hustle, you can find a pocket of enjoyment that relieves stress and helps you become more resilient at work. And, completing a puzzle or selling your first knit scarf will also give you a sense of accomplishment if you are missing that in your 9-5.
Spending time with your family, friends, or loved ones (even if it’s a virtual meet-up) can help you feel whole outside of work when your connections there are flimsy or toxic. Taking a job that has more flexible or shorter hours can allow you to lean into your roles as partner, parent, or pet owner that fill up your cup.
Volunteer work and giving back to the community can create a sense of fulfillment. Your generosity of time at a food bank, children’s hospital, campaign headquarters, or nonprofit organization can give you back even more in return. Consider what your values and interests are and how you can incorporate them into an opportunity for service. Love sports? Consider coaching a softball league. Passionate about political reform? Offer to make calls to support your favorite candidate.
What about when you’re at work: How can you stay interested in, or even passionate about, your role?
I’m sure you’ve seen people who are in roles that don’t seem “important” show true passion and excitement for their work. In fact, living through the pandemic has shown us that many of the jobs that had seemed menial previously are now viewed as essential. If you’re in a rut, think about how your work impacts others. For example, a grocery store cashier could get satisfaction from knowing that she is helping families get the food they need, and a janitor could be compelled to do her work to the best of her ability, knowing that she is making a clean space for people to enjoy. If you have lost interest in your role, you can also focus on the direct benefits it will have on your life: the strengths that you’re building that could launch you into your next opportunity; the colleagues that make your day enjoyable; and yes, the paycheck that allows you to pursue your hobbies on the side.
Read more: I Learned How to Be Happy at Work
If you’re trying but you’re still not feeling amped up, what are some good ways to figure out why you’re disengaged? How do you start the process of looking for a better fit without expecting a job to be the be-all, end-all in your happiness?
You’re stuck in a cycle of procrastination, lack of motivation, and boredom. If you just can’t seem to get engrossed in your job, it’s probably because you haven’t found your purpose—the work that aligns to your strengths and your values.
First, consider job crafting—designing your job description to meet your personal interests and goals while staying in your current role. For example, if you’re in finance but really enjoy having some creative pursuits, find out if there are any design tasks that you can assist with. Alternatively, if you’re a techie who is craving some more human interaction, try to request an opportunity for managing a more junior employee.
If you’re still feeling disconnected from your work, look for new roles. Think about what tasks you’d be interested in doing on a daily basis. Consider if you’d like to be working in a certain environment (at a desk, in a hospital, outdoors) or with a particular group (children, large business clients, athletes). Seek out opportunities that match at least some of your criteria. And if all else fails, you can always find happiness in your pursuits away from work.