are like most people, you will begin the process by looking around at the cars that are on the market. As you get an idea of the cost, you probably will adjust your “likes” and “dislikes” (depending mostly on your pocketbook). Eventually (if you are not buying on impulse, that is) you will buy the car. And for quite awhile “life is good” — how long depends on a number of things. But, inevitably as the “new car feeling” begins to wear oﬀ, the perceptions of the car change; interestingly, the perceptions of the car may change even as the car itself does not. And in a matter of time, almost as if it happened suddenly, you might realize that you just don’t like the car as much as you did when you ﬁrst bought it. The “honeymoon” timeframe is as diﬀerent as people themselves. Careers can go through a similar process. Career paths and goals begin a lot like car buying. People usually look at the jobs that they ﬁnd exciting (some even make their choice in childhood). Later, they ﬁnd out what the earnings potential is (sort of like getting the best car for the price). Once the career is perceived to be desirable and the income level is anticipated, the educational/credentialing requirements are sought. And assuming that a college degree is necessary, most people pursue a career dream with some expectations for outcomes.
from a sense of accomplishment in acquiring the new position, particularly in a competitive market. Conversely, if you are a seasoned veteran who has worked for ten, ﬁfteen, or twenty-ﬁve years in the same position, you might expect more of a struggle in ﬁnding satisfaction, particularly compared to what it felt like when the job was still very new to you. Regardless of whether the job is new or old, expectations can play one of the biggest roles in job/career satisfaction levels. What you anticipate, believe, hope for, or expect in a career will inﬂuence “happiness” as your expectations become reality (or if they do not).
Buyer Be Aware A good analogy in connecting expectations and career satisfaction might be something similar to what happens after you buy a new car. If you
But what happens when the potential, the perceived, the anticipated, the sought, and the pursuit do not match the actual career or job? Imagine, for example, if you started your college career seeking the degree that you believed would provide for a most wonderful set of circumstances: a thirty-hour work week, a Monday through Thursday schedule, all evenings and weekends oﬀ, and an $80,000 a year salary. “Life IS good,” huh? But then imagine that after college, you begin the job search, and in the market you start to realize that you will need to adjust your likes and dislikes a bit (sounds like car buying, doesn’t it?). After some compromise, from the expected to the reality, you ﬁnd that you begin your career at the lower rung of the career ladder — working six days a week, some evenings and weekends required, at a $39,000 a year salary — with the potential for a future earnings package that is much more lucrative. The belief and the facts, at least in this example, are not congruent. Are the expectations wrong? Is the career choice 59
a mistake? Maybe.
Dreams and Realities A career, very much like life, can be very satisfying, not based solely upon the choice itself, but based primarily upon the earlier expectations that precede the ultimate and realized choice. When dreams and reality are equally matched, the degree of satisfaction can easily be linked and contrasted to the level and degree of earlier expectations. The closer an anticipated dream is to the eventual reality is also the degree to which satisfaction can be measured. Sometimes a lower career expectation makes anything that is better than the expectation “gravy,” so to speak. The gravy is not always in the pocketbook. If you hoped to change the world, some change might just be the bonus you were looking for; if you hoped to become wealthy, one step up the ladder might just be the exact bonus, at the right time. The irony of having a lower expectation now, for the sake of a higher satisfaction later, is rooted in understanding what is reasonable and what is not. The irony of it all is this: your career choice, hope, and dream, if it is grounded in reasonable expectations, might end up being out of this world; yet don’t forget, it also may not. A practical way to help align expectations with careers is to do something you have probably been told to do a million times before: your homework. Before you set your expectations, you might consider talking to people who currently work in the ﬁeld you are considering. You also might do web searches (search for salary calculators and compare), speak to college instructors (many are experts in their particular area of academic teaching), and look at the classiﬁeds. Whether it’s money or passion (or both), expectations will aﬀect your career satisfaction. Kurt LaRose is a Clinical Social Worker and Therapist working in private practice in Florida assisting individuals and families in crisis. He also develops, implements, and maintains counseling programs and contracts with school districts to provide counseling services to youth ages four to eighteen. LaRose is an Adjunct Professor and Field Liaison Faculty member for the Division of Social Work at Thomas University.
61 InSpire Winter 2009