How happy are men at work? Strategies for men to find greater career fulfilment

After many years working with men of all ages in career coaching, job search and their businesses I observed a great deal of professional and career  dissatisfaction.  This article looks at the results of a poll I ran asking how happy are men at work.  I also take a detailed review of strategies for men to find greater career fulfilment as it means to them.

Career questions just for men

I found that discussions and questions where permission was given to speak your truth without judgement was powerful and often life changing.  So let’s get straight into some gutsy questions to kick off:

  1. Are you living your own business, career or professional purpose and truth?
  2. Or are you living the business direction and vocation foisted upon you by others OR by your own limitations and fears?
  3. Have family, friends, partners, your culture or environment been a major influence?  Perhaps you have followed a family business or profession and felt trapped to do so?

Survey Poll Reveals happiness and satisfaction levels

In 2020 I ran a Poll on LinkedIn as I wanted to reach a broader group of men of all professions and ages.  The poll opened up a raft of private and public conversations and feedback.

I’m sure the results if re-done in mid 2022 would be similar. Though with the devastation of COVID I would expect a extra swing to the negative.

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 to 60, occupations and industries were represented nationally in the votes and feedback.

Why men felt stuck or unfulfilled?

In further private questionnaires and discussions I asked what was causing the feelings of being stuck, desperation to change and what were obstacles for change. Below are 5 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 dont 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 mostly 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 you unpack future paths.

What brings joy and fulfilment will align with getting in touch with more heart and clarity. This will have a positive impact on emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

Challenging questions are designed to prod and encourage vulnerable conversations. Often shame holds men back from stepping up.

In his terrific book Man Unplugged, John Broadbent explores what it means to be a man, society stereotypes and how men can live fulfilling and connected lives. 

Curiosity and a magic wand

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 :

 If I had a magic wand over your career and life what would you wish for’ is likewise met with confusion.

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

Many men are filled with fear when attempting to connect with and express their deeper truths and career-life aspirations.

 

Unrealistic and old stereotype expectations

Men can be  imprisoned in and bought up to follow the social stereotype belief that they must be super achievers,  make big $$$, be a strong leader and in total control. They must take it on the chin, MAN UP not display any emotion or vulnerability or empathy etc. 

And the truth is that many women are as complicit in that stereotype expectation as men and social groups are.

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.

Many men grappling with and deny themselves a job or business path that they really want to pursue. 

And current social issues, aberrations, stereotypes in media and legalities can create an additional fear into men as they consider a new direction.

 

 

For fair balance:   I also observe many men sitting very happily in a place of true business ownership authenticity or career alignment.

Impact of ageism

And for men over 5o and especially 55,  looking to career transition or find a new role, ageism can be a thorn in their plans and aspirations. Many men who have been made redundant face considerable self belief challenges as confidence is rocked by the recruitment eco-system and knock backs.

Check out my blog of a list of strategies to address recruitment ageism here

Ageism is a fact but within that challenge, opportunities present around self employment. My blog Should I stay in my job, change career or start my own business will help review that pathway.

Taking the next step to greater happiness

It’s both an exciting and difficult process to dive deeply into your personal brand  positioning value of Who, What, Where, Why.  Whether you are looking at employment or self employment self employment the process is equally valuable.

But it does require 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 when on a  mission to discover who you are, or perhaps have forgotten.

Remember that reality statements are not value judgements so a ‘reality VS judgement’ focus keeps the process on track.

A quick start is to review to start :

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.

You can take control of your future and b Strategies for men to find greater career fulfilment

Information on my career services  & job search coaching  here  

 

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