How men can find greater work and career happiness

How happy are men in their businesses and career?  How can men find greater work and career happiness?  These questions are not  relevant only for men to unpack but both genders to understand with insight, as everyone is impacted by discontent and unhappiness of others.. 

So in July this year I put up a LinkedIn poll asking men where men rated their work and career satisfaction and fulfilment. 

Since the poll, with the impact of COVID-19 (which will be ongoing), 1000s of men have lost their jobs, reviewed their personal and professional lives and made changes or plan to. And others remain stuck and many forced to transition careers with additional pressure on social, financial and career wellbeing. 

The results from the 236 men who voted on the poll was disturbing but not at all surprising. 21% felt it was just a living and wanted more, 55% felt fulfilled and loved their work, 8% felt totally stuck and miserable and 17% unfulfilled and planning changes.

The upshot was that almost 45% were feeling unhappy across a totally miserable to nagging disquiet. I actually believe this was the tip of the iceberg. Of note was that all ages circa 30 – 60yo, occupations and industries were represented nationally in the votes and feedback provided privately and publicly

Why men felt stuck or unfulfilled?

In further private questionnaires and discussions I asked what was causing the feelings of being stuck, desperate to change and what were obstacles for change.  Below is are five  anonymous  answers covering a range of issues:

→ I realise now that I have no confidence. My last position took all that away after 4 years of trying to get a promotion to get out and failing. It’s hard to earn $100k+ outside of my industry when that is all I know.

→ I don’t have enough of a network of positive people around me to feel supported or able to share ideas and develop new business ideas.

→ Time and money. And a complete lack of knowing what else I could or can do.

→ I worked for an organisation with a toxic bullying culture largely allowed by management who welcomed  confrontational discussions and demanded people obey them. HR did nothing about it and in the end I felt scared to go to work and my self-esteem was the lowest it had ever been in my life. I left the company as I could no longer go to work without feeling of anxiety and inadequacy.

→ I need to be able to be there for my family while still excelling in my chosen field.

 Positive feedback

It seemed consistent that those who voted they were happy were most self employed/own business – circa 80% and felt empowered in their choices. I also observed that they were not in generational businesses.

Getting new clarity

The key question to review for men is what is your real real purpose and career truth? And how can men unpack their direction and career truth. What will bring joy and fulfilment will align with getting in touch with more heart and clarity to have a have a positive impact on emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

And what are the goals and dreams you did or didn’t pursue in life and business? Are you living your own career and professional truth, calling and passions? Or are you living the goals and life of others? Perhaps they are those of family, friends, a partner, a culture or a society you are a part f?

Challenging questions are designed to prod and encourage vulnerable conversations. Often shame holds men back from stepping up. In the seminal book Man Unplugged, John Broadbent explores what it means to be a man, society stereotypes and how men can live fulfilling and connected lives.

The eyes of a curiosity

As young children, we are full of curiosity and a no holds barred dreamscape of what our careers and future life may be. Often it is played out and often it doesn’t as life and crap happen along the way. The core inner self and knowing who we are and what gives us joy is generally consistent throughout life. But unfortunately, those dreamscapes and passions are often ignored and buried as adulthood takes hold.

Over many years as a business and career coach I have sadly observed that the answer to my opening question to men is often met with deep sadness and regret. My next question of

“If I had a magic wand over your career and life what would you wish for”

is likewise met with confusion. Many blokes are truly stumped with the question as their eyes gaze upwards to the ceiling and shoulders slouch downwards to the floor.

So many men filled with fear when attempting to connect with and express their deeper truths and career-life aspirations Men are so often imprisoned in ingrained belief systems – of both their own and others/societies making.

Expectations

Men are bought up generally to believe that: they must really achieve and succeed, make big $$ money, be a strong leader, be in control, take it on the chin, man up, not display any emotion or workplace empathy etc. And as a consequence, many are following a career path that deep inside may be torture. They are often burnt out and incredibly dissatisfied.

The list of beliefs and ‘must not do and not be’ both consciously and sub-consciously for men is vast. It is entrenched across all ages, industries and occupations. I see it all the way from top tier corporate CEOs to plumbing sub-contractors. I see too many men grappling with and denying themselves a job or business path that they really want. And current social issues, aberrations and legalities can create an additional fear into men as they consider a new direction. But to add some balance I also observe many men sitting very happily in a place of true business ownership authenticity or career alignment.

Taking the step to ‘next’

It’s both an exciting and difficult process to dive deeply into your WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHY? It requires courage to take yourself off the ‘expectation hook’ and give yourself permission to be real and authentic. It’s asking yourself a heap of questions and reflecting on the answers without any judgement. At the end of every question, the WHY is the lynchpin. Questions are always the answers. You are on a mission to discover who you are, or perhaps have forgotten. You need a ‘reality VS judgement focuses. A quick start to the process is to make lists around:

WHO are you? What is your true character, personality, life and business values, core beliefs? Hobbies, things that really excite you, lifestyle, community engagement, mannerisms, style/look, dress presentation, types of people you enjoy etc. And WHY?

WHAT are you current career skills, education? What do you like and dislike about what work you do? What are you great at doing and what gives your joy? What would you like to learn about and explore? What keeps you awake at night for yourself and others And WHY?

WHERE – the Magic Wand (no holds barred). Where would you really like your career and business life to be? Where would that magic wand take you? This question is not about the end result it’s to connect with your authentic self and truth. And WHY

HOW – would you like people to remember you and know about you? And WHY

As you take these exercises you will start to connect, re-align and or confirm some of your career truths. You may realise that you have lived a career that is not what you wanted at all. Or you may realise a new-found passion for your current situation. And it’s absolutely fine to be and do whatever you want to be and do. Follow what gives you fulfilment.

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a community to give permission to men to share and own their personal vulnerability and career truth.

Let’s everyone of both genders keep giving permission and encouragement to teenagers and men to follow their own path and joy. And men – give that permission to YOURSELF.

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