Here’s something I’ve noticed:
Most humans tend to move through life believing that they are islands unto themselves.
If we feel depressed, we assume everyone else is happy.
If we feel stuck, we get frustrated by how “ahead” the people around us are.
If we feel lost, everyone seems to have found themselves.
We assume that we’re alone in our internal world and that something is wrong with us for feeling how we feel.
One of the best parts about my job is that I’ve had access to countless internal worlds.
And I can tell you right now — most of what I hear is a repeat of what I’ve already heard. Everyone is thinking and feeling versions of the same thing. We have infinitely more in common than we assume.
But because most of us haven’t shared our internal fears and desires out loud, we don’t realize how normal we are.
Which is why I often hear people ask me, “Am I crazy for thinking that?” and “Is it weird that I want that?”
My answer is always, “No. That’s totally normal! And in fact, you’d be shocked at how many people have asked me the same question.”
There are plenty of differences between each person, of course. But there are some things that are so common that every person I’ve ever coached has talked about it.
So, in an effort to show you just how universal your experience is, I want to share with you the 5 things that everyone wants from their career. (I could make totally separate lists for “love” and “life,” but I’m sticking with career today!).
Consider these 5 things a baseline test to see if you’re getting your basic needs met in your career … or if you need to aim higher.
After you’ve read, leave a comment below to let me know which of the five you resonate the most with!
And remember, if you don’t have time to read, you can scroll down to the bottom of the blog and listen to me read it! (Listen time is about 7 minutes.) 🙂
I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know, I’m just too respected. I could do with a little disrespect.”
A lot of people I’ve coached have experienced the opposite — they don’t feel respected and valued for their work, or simply as a person.
It’s a basic human desire to want to feel respected and valued. Period.
And yet, I hear a lot of people second-guessing that desire:
“I mean, I’m pretty new here. Maybe I need to earn more respect.”
“This is just what work is like. You’re a cog in the wheel. You can’t expect to be appreciated all the time.”
And to be clear, respect is something that deserves to be earned — but that goes both ways. You earn respect through being a thoughtful person who does diligent work, and people (yes, even higher-ups) should be earning your respect with their leadership.
If you feel unseen, unacknowledged, undervalued, and like no one respects you (and if you don’t respect them) … that’s a problem. And you don’t have to settle for it.
We get what we’re willing to settle for. And staying in a situation where you’re never going to be respected or valued only gives people with authority the license to continue treating you, and everyone else, that way.
AUTONOMY & TRUST
I’ve also never heard anyone say, “I could do with a touch more micromanagement!” or “I love that my boss does laps around our cubicles every half hour.”
When someone trusts us, they’re willing to give us a certain degree of autonomy. They give us space to do our job in a way that works for us, even if it’s not the way they would do it.
When you have autonomy, you have room to challenge yourself. And when we feel challenged, we feel like we’re growing. Humans naturally abhor stagnation … we love to feel like we’re moving toward something.
When someone puts you on a short leash, or won’t let you try new things, or doesn’t allow you to use your brain to solve a problem (they just want you to do things the way they’ve always been done), it’s stifling.
Humans can’t thrive when we feel suffocated. We need room to breathe!
Being stifled and not trusted is sadly normal in a lot of workplaces, but normal doesn’t mean necessary. If this is what you’ve been tolerating, you have complete permission to aim higher.
Once again, no one has ever told me, “I hate the idea of being able to work from home if I feel like it,” or “Choosing my own schedule? Gross! I want a strict, rigid system that I can never deviate from.”
No one likes feeling trapped. Freedom is as basic a need as food or water.
Not everyone needs the same degree of freedom — some people can’t thrive unless they work for themselves, others prefer a more stable existence — but everyone needs a certain amount of flexibility.
What “flexibility” means is up to you. Maybe it’s the ability to set your own hours, go to the gym in the middle of the day, or work from home a couple days a week. It could be as simple as choosing to come in one hour later in the morning and work an hour later in the evening.
Whatever makes you feel like you’re not trapped is a good place to start.
No one contributes their best when they feel chained to a system that doesn’t work for them. We’re all far more engaged, energized, and productive when we can work in a more intuitive way.
Being handcuffed to your desk is not something you have to continue “sucking up” or getting over. It’s something no one wants, and you’re completely normal for wanting more freedom.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
I’ve never worked with any sociopaths, so I’ve never heard anyone say, “I have no desire to help anyone. I just want to serve myself. The world can go to hell.”
If you’ve ever said, “I want to help people!” or, “I really want to have an impact,” or “I wish I could make a difference,” you’re both admirable and completely unoriginal (in the best way).
Humans are wired to support each other. We find deep joy and satisfaction in being of service.
So if you’re doing something that feels completely pointless — or worse, actively harmful (you know, like marketing tobacco to teenagers) — it’s no wonder you’re existentially exhausted. What’s the point if you’re not doing any good?
It’s not unreasonable to want to make an impact. Don’t let the slightly jaded people convince you that “helping people” is unrealistic and that you and your do-gooder dreams should pack it up and go home.
Your life is valuable, which means how you spend it is important. If you’re not spending it doing something you believe in and that feels worthwhile … then what are you (or any of us) doing here?
SPENDING TIME IN NATURE
Lastly, I’ve never heard anyone say, “I love working in a windowless office for 9 hours every day! I have no need of sunlight or fresh air.”
This one is so basic that you may have forgotten … but the ability to go outside, absorb some sunshine, and take a few deep breaths isn’t just a “nice to have” — it’s a must.
Whenever humans spend time in nature, our brains produce chemicals that put us into a relaxed state. We’re biologically connected to nature in a way we can’t begin to understand.
So it makes perfect sense that spending all day in a beige office under fluorescent lighting might be draining, annoying, and anxiety-inducing.
At the very least, you should be to walk outside every day or take your laptop and go work on a bench. Even better if you have a flexible work policy that allows you to plan a hike in the middle of the afternoon if you so choose.
You’re not a diva if you’re stuck inside all day and hate it. You’re not a robot! If you felt nothing about that, we’d know something was wrong with you.
So … there you have it. These five things are so universal that you should expect to have them met in a job. And if you can’t reach that baseline … feel free to explore options that will honor your basic human needs.
Can you relate with these five? What else do you think is a basic need? Share with me in the comments!
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Rachel (& Kristen)
Great article, I can relate to everything and totally agree that most if not all workplaces should implement these policies. Xx
Glad this resonated with you, Hanna!
Thank you for sharing this insight. Please do share the life and love lists!
I’ll make a note to blog about both of those in the future! 😉
Yes please! ????
Check, check, check, check and check! All of those are problems I’ve been putting up with for far too long. And it took me ages to realise I wasn’t a bad person for struggling to exist under those factors. I’m planning my exit and can’t wait to escape!
I’m so glad you realized that you don’t have to tolerate this kind of stuff anymore, Christine!
Awesome advice. Thank you for the encouragement.
5 Things Everyone Wants in Their Career had me chuckling at my screen. Funny and spot on! “I could use a little more micro-management!” Haha!
The one that resonates most with me is FREEDOM. I would follow that up with creativity, but technically, that could fall under your MAKING A DIFFERENCE category. Recently, freedom has become key for me. I lost my job of over 20 years last September (company went out of business, in fact it’s still making the news) and I’m working on hacking through the weeds to find my new path.
Thank you for sharing. I feel sooooo normal now!