Does your work spark joy?

It’s a question you’ve probably considered a time or two. Most people will find throughout the course of their career that there are times they wonder whether the work they do day in and day out is really suited to them, or perhaps the best use of their time and skills. But with the world flipped on its head and unemployment at a record high, priorities right now are shifting, and everything we’ve lived with, and lived for, is under much greater scrutiny. What do you want your future career to look like? To feel like? Now is the time to take a close look at how you’re spending the vast majority of your waking moments, and assess whether it still works for you. It’s okay to desire a joyful career. And it’s also totally achievable.

But how do you get from where you are today, to that future joy-filled state with a career you love? You KonMari it.

Marie Kondo, founder of the

KonMari method of organizing

asks … what brings you joy?

Marie Kondo, the organizational mastermind behind the popular KonMari method, has became a household name over the past several years as her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” has gained popularity, and her method of minimalism has taken root. She helps her clients, and millions of readers around the world, to tidy up their lives to create a stripped down, yet more meaningful existence.

But her approach isn’t just about advocating for a minimalist lifestyle. She goes a step further to really encourage her clients to live a life surrounded by only those things that bring them joy. By helping people to get to the core of their relationship with the “things” in their lives, she has helped countless people to declutter and downsize, while simultaneously living the fullest expression of themselves.

HOW TO KONMARI YOUR CAREER

If you apply these same principles to your career, there are a few major areas you’ll need to reassess and reconsider, and in some cases even eliminate. Let’s take a look at how you can KonMari your career to find a joy-filled work life you love.

Expectations

When you think about your career, what expectations do you have? Are those expectations as relevant today as they were just a few months ago, and more importantly — are they still serving you?

Many of us approach our working life with expectations born from our childhood, or accumulated through different stages of life. Perhaps you had parents who expected you to become a corporate attorney, or you saw high-paying jobs modeled for you and expected that you would follow in those same footsteps.

Maybe years ago you decided that you wanted to be a Vice President by the age of 40, and that single goal has shaped every career decision you’ve made until now. But is that dream goal still something that matters to the person you’ve become? Does that specific number on your paycheck, or that particular symbol of workplace status hold the same weight and meaning that it once did?

To overcome the expectations that are dictating how you shape your career, you first need to understand them. Make a list of all the expectations that you have for your own career, and then list those expectations you’ve received from others. What did, or do, family members or friends in your circle expect from you? Sometimes it’s helpful to ask for clarification from those individuals directly, because a lot of the time they may not care about the things you think they do!

Once you understand all of the expectations taking up space in your head, you need to determine which still feel relevant now. And which ones can you toss to make way for more peace of mind? 

Responsibilities

What responsibilities have taken on over the course of your career, and do you genuinely like them? You may have been handed someone else’s role to take on in addition to your own after a layoff, or have gradually found yourself handling more and more things that aren’t exactly in your wheelhouse.

Of all your work responsibilities, think about which ones bring you the most joy. Then consider, which ones bring you the least joy? For those that don’t align with the work you want to be doing, can you delegate, negotiate, stop altogether, or re-think them? Or are there so many misaligned responsibilities that it would be better to look for a new role entirely, one that has more of what you love and less of what you don’t?

Skills

What’s the sharpest set of tools in your work skills toolbox? What skills does your role require you to have at the ready that you actually enjoy exercising? As you advance in your career, it’s normal to have an ever-growing toolkit. What if, however, instead of trying to stay current on a lot of skills, you picked a few that were your most valuable professional assets and doubled down on perfecting those?

There is a ton of value in being known for your expertise in a particular area, instead of being known as a generalist. If you possess a skill that is in high demand, consider what you can do to strengthen that skill to become even more valuable in the marketplace.

Takeaway

There are two ways you can approach your own career development. You can take the haphazard, stack-one-thing-on-top-of-another career approach, and hope for the best. Or, you can create a curated, thoughtful approach that aims, like Kondo suggests, to thoughtfully choose what brings you joy. One road will keep you bouncing in all different directions, and likely won’t help to foster steady career growth. The other will guide you down a well thought out path with rewarding monetary or role-related improvements. Your goal should be to create an orderly, consistent approach to career growth, whether you’re looking for a new job entirely, or just looking to grow within your current organization.

Even though you probably don’t have an excess of time these days, take what little you do have and pare your career goals down to the bare essentials. What tasks, ideas, routines, etc. do you want to get rid of in your career? What do you want to add? What new expectations, responsibilities, and skills can you focus on to replace the old ones?

Now is a better time than any before to take a step back, reflect, and plan for what’s next. All over the world, what “work” means today is taking new shape, and you have a chance to redefine what it means for you. This involves stripping away what’s not working, in order to focus on crafting a work life that sparks joy.

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