- Set realistic expectations
I’m sure this comes as a surprise to almost no one but it’s worth noting. There is an obvious difference between doing what you love as a hobby vs as your job. You’ll likely have to generate more product with tighter deadlines and you’re now having your work scrutinized by others rather than just yourself. Unless you’re a freelancer or have a quirky millennial job, you likely have something akin to a regular daily schedule, a 40-ish hour work week. You may even need to set an alarm in the morning. These things, if not given consideration, can make what you once loved something you now resent. However, if you go in with these expectations, that doesn’t mean you’re accepting a hum-drum job, it means you’re seeking career contentment by accepting a realistic picture of a job, one with both ups and downs. If you know you would resent something about a job, then you may want to explore what other options there are for you.
- Find the balance that works for you
For some of my friends who are freelance designers and/or photographers, career contentment means they eat, sleep, and breathe their work. Their facebook page is filled with work they’ve done, work that inspires them, and work they’ve made in their free time. I’ve also met a few developers who have a developer day job and go home and freelance develop until the wee hours of the morning. For these people, they keep their passion alive by immersing themselves in it. They do nothing else. This is definitely not the case for everyone. On the other end of the spectrum, some people only do their passion at work because they need to have time away from it in order to not get sick of it. I personally fall somewhere in the middle. I go home and sometimes do design exercises or read design-related articles, or muse how I could utilize my craft to help the world. Most of this is purposefully casual so as to take a step away from my pace at work.
- Keep connections with friends in your field
When you have friends who are in the same field as you, there a lot of different benefits you can glean from them. For one, it can feel great to tell a friend about a project you just finished up as they’ll be able to relate better to the struggles and little victories you came across during the project. When I tell my friends about a tough decision for a website, they understand why the decision was tough. Secondly, friends also will have helpful advice that can be more specific and applicable. They can provide a fresh perspective while still having similar training to yours and therefore look at a problem from a different angle. Thirdly, a little competition can go a long way. If a friend shows me a piece they just finished up and it looks great, it energizes me to really knock it out of the park on my next project so I can show it off.
- Actively seek excitement in each new project
Even when you’re doing what you love, it’s hard to be excited about each project simply because it’s technically in your line of work. To counter this, it can be helpful to come to each new project with a fresh pair of eyes and to actively think about what part of the project is cool intriguing, or fun. If nothing pops out, dig deeper and search for ways to make some element fun or exciting. This is not always going to work because a project might be very small and quick or because you might have a very small part in it but it’s still a great practice for future bigger projects. When you’re able to find that happy place in a project, you create a good cycle of being excited and therefore putting forth your best effort and therefore being excited and so on. When you’re enjoying your work, it shows in the final product and generates career contentment.
- Enjoy your space
Your environment has a big impact on your career contentment. There can be a difference in outlook if you’re working in a cubicle vs in an open office. You may find a difference in attitude if you’re working on your couch vs in a work space you’ve created for yourself at home. If you are your own boss and you work from your house, having a dedicated work space can keep a definitive line between work life and personal life. It can also you feeling positive about your work as it can provide a certain level of validity that may not have been felt before (such as if you’re in the early phases of a startup or kickstarter).
If you’re not your own boss, you probably have little less control. Your work may allow you to personalize your space with things that make you happy. A space you don’t like can lead to dissatisfaction with the job itself but a space you enjoy makes you more motivated to be there. DVS’s office, for example, has lots of large windows overlooking trees and downtown as well as high ceilings and an open floor plan. I can always see the glass as half full when it comes to my job, and that’s in part because I get to work in this amazing space.
A lot of these tips can be boiled down to the idea of actively finding joy in your work rather than waiting for it to find you. Hopefully this philosophy and these tips for career contentment will come in handy to some of you. Thanks for reading and, if we missed anything, feel free to let us know on our facebook page!