The importance of finding career fulfilment as women in business

What do you do if your business is rapidly growing, and work is unrelenting? It’s easy, right? You focus more, you burn the candle at both ends, you work harder and longer.

Instinctively and logically, we’re led to believe that simply spending more time working will make us more productive, solve all our work problems and help our businesses and personal lives thrive. But more action isn’t always the answer. Sometimes we need to do the absolute opposite.

While it might seem counterintuitive, there are many reasons why stepping away and taking a breath is the best thing you can do for your business. It allows you to really rethink and actualise fulfilment in your career.

We live in a culture which celebrates and normalises the ‘lunch is for wimps’, ‘work til you drop’ mentality. The assumption is that if you’re in the office for eight to ten hours a day, glued to your computer screen, you’re somehow being productive.

This is something I personally faced as a corporate lawyer; I quickly grew tired of the transactional nature and feeling like I was on a ‘corporate hamster wheel’, doing little more than adding shareholder value and fee revenue for my firm. I realised that I wanted and needed more, something more meaningful – a life with purpose and value – helping others attain their personal and business goals and contributing more to the wider community.

Why now is the right time to rethink your career

The COVID-19 crisis greatly intensified challenges that many female business leaders face in the workplace. Working mothers faced a lack of childcare and home-schooling, on top of their already gruelling schedules, and taking on an uneven division of responsibilities at home. This was all coupled with the ongoing anxieties regarding possible furloughs, redundancies, and layoffs.

As a result, many women have re-evaluated their careers and priorities to identify what really matters to them. In fact, according to a recent survey by Indeed, more than a third of women (40%) considered quitting their job in the last 12 months, “citing burnout and the pressures of family life”.

As the workplace adapts and shifts because of the pandemic, it has provided many women with an opportunity to identify and create a career and ‘work-life balance’ that works for them.

Finding fulfilment in your career is more than simply focusing on your own success. It’s about working towards something that will see the people around you grow and thrive. It’s about seeing the bigger picture – as author and thought leader Simon Sinek says, playing the “Infinite Game”.

Leaders can feel disillusioned, often questioning their choices and career path. At that point, it’s important to ask yourself what makes you happy, and reflect on your strengths, interests, values, and what gets you up in the morning. What are you truly passionate about?

Find Your North Star

In Japanese philosophy, there is a term called Ikigai, which loosely translates to “reason for being”. It lies at the intersection of four distinct points: that which I love, that which I am good at, that which I can be paid for, and that which the world needs. It’s important to understand that you may never be at peace with whatever you dedicate your time and effort towards if it doesn’t tick the above boxes. Take time away from your day-to-day in order to dedicate time to finding out what in life ticks all of those boxes for you.

I was a good lawyer and it paid well, but I didn’t love it. And was the world in need of another lawyer? Probably not. That’s when my journey to find career fulfilment began. My passion was to make a difference, and support others in their growth and development. And what mattered to me was being able to choose who I worked with, and when and where I worked. Being the master of my own destiny.

Push Yourself

For me the transition from law was a journey. Changing careers is no small feat, so it’s natural for us to be reluctant and daunted at first, and it’s important to truly challenge and hold ourselves accountable to the promises we make.

I retrained as an executive coach and set up my own leadership development consultancy. Soon after, I joined Vistage, the leading CEO peer learning network, as a Chair, and I’ve never looked back. The key is to be patient as you take the time to analyse where your skillset and passion lie and identify what roles would best highlight them. Be excited by this new challenge and be brave.

Say Yes to Instinct

Going with your gut is easier said than done. Particularly when you realise the prevalence of imposter syndrome for female business leaders specifically. In fact a 2020 study by accounting firm KPMG found that 75% of all female executives, across industries, have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. It’s important to recognise that some our most impulsive decisions are the best ones. Following your instincts and intuition can result in something truly original or game-changing particularly when it relates to finding a career fulfilling for you.

This is both an exciting and scary time as women re-evaluate their lives and careers. But it can be the most rewarding decision you’ll ever make. But if you have an inkling that you might not have found your true purpose just yet, I promise you that taking that first step towards career fulfilment will be the most rewarding decision you’ll make in your career.