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The Great Realization: Defining a Job


This is the first part in our series, The Great Realization. If you missed our introduction to this series, click here before diving into Part 1: Defining a Job below.

Defining A Job

The grass is always greener on the other side.

Yes, that is a very familiar term. About when we think one circumstance is better than another. Laced with a bit of envy, this perspective can shape our decision making even if appearances are deceiving. And they usually are. Especially when we add another oldie, but goodie statement, “If it seems too good to be true…” Which can mean we are suspicious that something must be wrong with something we are unexpectedly enjoying.

One of the big conversations regarding the COVID impact on the business landscape was The Great Resignation. A phenomenon that saw employees actively and intentionally leaving their jobs. COVID locked people in place, at home. During this required downtime, it appears to have stimulated thoughts about their job. About how they saw meaning in what they did. In time, it pivoted into a virtual job with the workplace being the kitchen or dining room table. This change provoked people into evaluating their purpose. This was the catalyst for looking for the dream job. People started leaving.

Woman working from home

As we enter the third year of COVID, we have shifted the awareness of people leaving jobs to people evaluating something else. Did they make the right choice to leave and is the ‘grass truly greener’?

A March 2022 Guardian article noted this “resignation” turnover was real and lots of people had changed jobs in the past two years. In fact, the feeling was it wasn’t so much leaving jobs as swapping jobs. It cited a job research study by Muse, which found as much as seventy-two percent of workers experienced surprise or regret in their new post. Nearly half (48%) said they would try to get their old job back. They called this “shift shock” So, it begs the question…is the grass actually the exact same color?

Based on what has happened and how to move forward, I challenge some of the following considerations in searching for a “right fit” job.

Purpose. I thought I would tackle the biggest rock first. COVID may very well have stimulated this contemplation…what do I really want to do? That can be a complex answer, or it can be simple. What do you want to do versus what do you have to do versus what do you get to do.

Want to do; this is about desire. Maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to do. It’s been in the back of your mind, and you’ve always wondered “what if”. One side may say “That’s high risk – to step into something new you’ve dreamt about”. Another side may say “That’s high reward – to step into something you’re passionate about”.

Have to do; this is about necessity. If you have to create provision…provision to maintain a quality of life, support your family, consistently pay down debt…you may have to take the job that supports your needs at this time. This doesn’t mean you can’t dream or work towards another future. It does mean it may take time. And who is to say you can’t or won’t be fulfilled in a current post. It could very well be the exact laboratory to perfect a targeted skill set for the future.

Get to do; this is about appreciation. Maybe we are in the right job, and we’ve forgotten to fully engage in its possibilities. Maybe we have felt stuck, and all we have to do is expand and evolve in the job. We may not like certain aspects of the job, and yet it is precisely where we should be. Maybe we haven’t given it a chance to have it be bigger than it is, as well as recognizing the influence you can have on others and your own purpose.

Purpose aside, now the considerations wrap around personal need – what we need and a job that provides support for those needs. Maybe it’s about compensation like pay scale, commission, potential for bonus, etc. Maybe it’s about benefits like healthcare, 401k programs, paid vacation, flex schedules, and so on. Maybe it is about personal growth like ongoing development, promotion, educational opportunities. Maybe simple things like convenience, geography, accessibility, and maybe even culture – that the company stands for something and has purpose beyond profitability.

It reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy; a concept shared by American psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. It provides a look at human needs within a five-tier model. The hierarchy is often displayed as a pyramid, with basic needs at the bottom and more complex needs at the top.

Starting at the bottom, it identifies physiological need, or the base needs for human survival. The next level is about safety needs, including things like our health, our employment status, our home, and so on. The next is love and belonging, which involves a need for the love, appreciation and value in our relationships. The fourth level is esteem; specifically, things like self-worth, status, achievement, confidence and a sense of social significance. The top of this five-tier pyramid is self-actualization, or the need of feeling fulfilled and living a purpose-driven life.

If you think about trying to find the “right” job, maybe we start with Maslow’s pyramid as we step into our opportunities. Grass being greener must begin with how we define ‘green’. Because without that kind of realization, the job may be a checked box and not a part of personal growth journey.

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