We’ve all been there: in a work rut, where you ask yourself: Why, oh why, do I work (here still? this hard? in this role? with these people? [other])?

Yes, most of us require money to support ourselves, our families, pay the mortgage etc. Among the people I coach, however, finances aren’t the primary reason they stay in their current position.

Why do I work? Possible benefits

According to Joanna Maxwell, author of the book Rethink Your Career in Your 40s, 50s, and 60s, the five main benefits of work are:

  1. Financial remuneration: Income
  2. Time management/Structure: Being an employee provides a structure to our time
  3. Socialization: Colleagues to collaborate with, peers with whom we can share stories and friendships
  4. Status: Gives us a role and some certainty about our identity
  5. Utility/Usefulness: Helps foster a sense of purpose

Burnett and Evans, authors of Designing Your Work Life, put it a bit differently. They narrow it to three categories:

  1. Impact
  2. Money
  3. Expression

(for more on the above 3 categories, see page 5 of their free workbook)

What are MY reasons, at present?

Intuitively, you probably have a sense of why you work.

Whether you’re utterly content in your current work and career or feeling overwhelmed and overworked, or you’re considering a change, it can be helpful to examine what benefits you are deriving in your role. This can help you determine things like:

  • Why do I stay in this role?
  • What values am I expressing through my work (to discover your values, see this worksheet I created)
  • What brings me energy? What drains me?
  • If I were to change jobs/roles, what would I be seeking more/less of?

Below is a simple activity to help you self-assess where things are at now, so you can better track changes over time. I also use this with my coaching clients when they feel confused and uncertain about their next steps–it aids to pinpoint areas they want to address first in making any changes.

A quick self-assessment: Why do I work?

  1. Pull out a sheet of paper or create a digital document that you can easily relocate at a future date.
  2. Rate your level of satisfaction for each of the five benefits of work listed by Maxwell (for a fuller description of each category, see her LinkedIn post titled “Do you get 5 benefits of Work” that she wrote). You can use a 1-5 scale or create any other visual that will help you. Make a few notes about what’s working well and areas of frustration.
  3. Put a note in your calendar to revisit and reassess.

The revisiting part is really helpful, so don’t ignore step 3 😁.  Completing that step allows you to see how your needs are being met, or not. It will also highlight some of the choices you’re making in your work life (choices can include: not making decisions, making decisions, blaming, settling etc).

Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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