According to the Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial survey, employees continue walking away from their jobs due to stress and burnout. During the pandemic, 76% of workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition.
No matter what you do, it’s critical that you build a strong personal foundation. “It is important to cement your career values and then build a career roadmap that aligns with them,” says Octavia Goredema, career coach and author of Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women. “Jobs will come and go, bosses and coworkers will come and go, but your values remain, and they are unique to you.”
The good news is that companies seem to care more than ever about their employees’ well-being. The 2021 PwC Health and Well-Being Touchstone Survey found that 44% of employers added or improved wellness support and programs within their organizations.
In a recent interview with Fast Company, Arianna Huffington talked about her partnership with the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) to ensure that employers maintain employee mental health and wellness benefits created during the pandemic. “Employees are risking loss of productivity, attrition, healthcare costs, ability to recruit—they are risking real business results,” Huffington noted. Indeed, according to a recent Korn Ferry survey, 16% of workers said they have quit jobs for stress-related reasons.
As you determine your next steps toward a more satisfying career, it is vital that you take your mental health into account. Here are five ways you can find a career suited to your personal well-being.
Define your personal mental health
For years, Jessa Maddocks, cofounder of JessaKae, a retailer of women’s dresses, struggled to find the balance between managing her depression and pursuing her passion for fashion and photography. After evaluating her own needs, Maddocks determined that starting her own fashion brand was the most satisfying solution for her overall well-being.
“For me, starting my business was a mental health lifeline,” Maddocks says. “I found that I need to be actively creating and designing to be mentally well, or else I experience a severe depression flare-up. Owning my own business,” she adds, “gives me a constant flow of responsibilities that mitigate my natural tendency toward depression. And having many outlets for my creativity is life-giving to me. I love that I lead a business that invigorates me.”
Every person is different, which means each individual has unique mental health needs. Taking an inventory of your own mental health will help you determine what is most important and necessary for your success.
To determine your feelings about your job, Goredema suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- What matters most to you personally when it comes to how you work?
- What makes you excited and inspired about your work?
- What motivates you to do your best work?
- What do you want your career to feel like?
While some people, like Maddocks, value creativity and innovation, others may value the stability and routine that are often nonexistent in startups. Determining your personal needs can steer you toward a career that will be best suited to you.
Follow where your skills can take you
In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport rejects the common wisdom to follow your passion. He writes, “The passion hypothesis is not just wrong, it’s also dangerous. Telling someone to ‘follow their passion’ is not just an act of innocent optimism, but potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst.”
Instead, Newport invites readers to focus on developing skills they already possess and to seek careers in which these abilities are valued.
He also suggests that the most critical factors in a happy career are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy gives people a sense of control and value. Competence provides a feeling of success that all individuals crave in their career. And relatedness enables meaningful connections with other individuals. All three factors are crucial to a well-rounded and fulfilling career.
Understand a potential employers’ culture
Another career factor that contributes to poor mental health is toxic company culture. Digging into a potential employer’s culture sounds obvious but is often neglected, partly because candidates are concerned about how their questions are perceived. In reality, asking these questions is extremely beneficial for you and for the company. It shows that you care about how you’ll get along with coworkers and company leadership.
If you’re starting or managing your own company, pay close attention to the environment you want to create. Cultures are changeable and often reflect the desires of a business leader. Those who value positive workplace culture and psychological well-being will find greater business success. According to a study by Gallup, “Engaged employees can drive a 21% increase in profitability, and a 10% bump in customer ratings.”
If you plan to join a new company, learn as much as you can about its culture during the interview process. You might consider reaching out to other employees to learn more about the business culture, mission, values, and beyond. There are many indirect and direct questions you can ask to learn as much as you need to before even considering a potential offer.
Do your research
When considering a new career, be sure to do your research. Use your network to find people who work in your desired field. You can also talk to career experts about the complexities of any job, or you can book a call with someone from Clarity.fm, a service that helps find an expert and pay for their advice. If you want to be motivated in your work environment, do not edit or mold yourself to fit in. Instead, try to find one that suits you.
Once you’ve determined the type of job or career you’d like, you can start interviewing. Don’t be afraid to ask about all your job responsibilities, the specific roles you’ll play, and the standards you’ll need to adhere to. For example, the functions of a product manager vary greatly from one company to another. You never want to assume that a job title exactly matches your expectations.
Set your own boundaries
After 15 years of anxiety and situational depression, entrepreneur Leanna Lee described learning to appreciate the ways her mental health has taught her to work. One of the greatest lessons she’s learned from anxiety is how to set boundaries.
“Mental health forces me to prioritize myself in my business, challenging me to figure out what I need to do to work at my best,” says Lee. “I’ve learned the hard way that setting boundaries, and advocating for them, is one of the most important and healthy things I can do as a business owner.”
When making a career pivot or change, it can be easy to settle for the first opportunity that comes along. Instead, try to be definitive when identifying your career goals. Have clear and realistic expectations about a potential job, making sure that it aligns with your values. While it may be unsettling to be uncertain about your next job, following your principles will significantly pay off in the long run.
Once you’ve accepted a new role, continue to set boundaries that allow you to prioritize your mental health. Practicing self-care and self-awareness will always be essential. Any job can become unhealthy without proper precautions.
Anastasia Chernikova is editor-in-chief of Vivid Minds, a media intiative dedicated to stories about leaders who overcome challenges and moved forward.