How to tell if your job really sucks or if you're just too picky about your career, according to renowned therapist Esther Perel

Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Girlboss Media‘Fulfillment doesn’t come just from work,’ Perel told Insider.
  • In today’s “identity economy,” younger generations increasingly view their careers as sources of fulfillment, so when their jobs fall flat, they can feel purposeless.
  • But there’s a fine line between feeling unfulfilled and being too picky about a job title and function, renowned therapist Esther Perel told Insider. “Fulfillment is not is a constant state of excitement,” she said.
  • Work fulfillment could come from considering the skills, relationships, growth opportunities, and financial stability your job provides.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Unlike older generations, younger generations live in a world where what they do for work is an integral part of their identities.

Millennials and Gen Z-ers increasingly view their careers, or impending careers, as sources of fulfillment, so when their jobs fall flat, they can feel purposeless.

But there’s a fine line between being genuinely unfulfilled by one’s job and being too picky about a job title and function, renowned sex and relationships Esther Perel told Insider during an interview about her new podcast “How’s Work?”

“Fulfillment is not is a constant state of excitement, that every day you go to work and think ‘This is the greatest thing,'” Perel told Insider. “Fulfillment doesn’t come just from work.”

At the same time, Perel said that work is a major factor in feeling fulfilled, and there are ways to tell whether your job has the potential to be fulfilling in some capacity.

Are there opportunities to grow and learn new skills, or do you feel you’ve reached your limit?

Adults talkingSDI Productions/Getty ImagesA job that offers mentorship opportunities could provide fulfillment.

If a job offers clear professional growth opportunities, that can be enough to provide a higher sense of purpose, even when the day-to-day feels humdrum, Perel said.

Even if an employee who is tasked with sending daily emails to vendors finds the responsibility boring, for example, they may find overall fulfillment because the emails are helping to finalise plans for an event about a cause that’s important to them. Those email tasks could also help them build interpersonal communication skills that could help them in future career roles.

Looking at the bigger picture of what work provides you, whether it be a top-notch mentor, a new skill, or an introduction to an industry that you’d never considered working in before, can provide more fulfillment, Perel said.

Work is not always exciting. Focus on how your job feeds into longer-term goals, rather than short-term fulfillment.

Perel said that it’s a common misconception that a person has to love what they’re doing at work every single day in order for that job to be a fulfilling one.

In reality, Perel said, “sometimes you’re bored and sometimes you wish you were doing something else. All of that is part of one’s work life,” and that’s OK.

But if you catch yourself constantly moving from job to job because you feel dissatisfied, Perel said it could mean you need to reframe how you think about work.

“The meaning of the work is not always at work,” Perel said. “It’s about what the work affords you to do.”

That could be anything from paying off long-standing financial debt to taking care of hospital bills for your parents.

Do you feel the people you work with value your opinions and ideas?

According to Perel, one way to you can find work-related fulfillment is to pinpoint companies where you envision yourself enjoying the time you spend bonding and collaborating with colleagues, since fulfillment can come from building strong relationships.

When interviewing for jobs or researching places to work, ask current employees about how collaborative they are across teams. You could even ask about specific projects they enjoyed working on together to see if any pique your interest.

Similarly, Perel said choosing a workplace that considers employees’ personal values and ideas and encourages them to share those often can provide fulfillment because employees feel like they’re appreciated.

If you’re unsure whether a company you’re interested in has these measures in place, ask about how they measure employee success and how they handle company culture-related critiques or suggestions.

Do you feel a sense of agency in your work?

Look for a company that allows its employees to feel a sense of personal responsibility.

Although work responsibilities can be stressful at times, they allow employees to have agency over the work they do and that can lead to fulfillment, Perel said.

Responsibility could come in the form of particular goals employees are expected to strive for every month or quarter or opportunities to work on new company projects.

Stick with it for at least six months

If you’re the type of person who hasn’t stayed at a job for more than six months, the fulfillment could even come from sticking it out in one role for an entire year, Perel said.

You can use the experience to prove to yourself your ability to see something through and develop new skills that may not have blossomed before that one-year mark.

“Even if you don’t like what you do, the value of the work is very clear. I think the mistake that people often make around fulfillment is that they think it’s all about how I feel about what I do, or where I do it, and that’s not true.”

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