Competency and enjoyment – both necessary ingredients for job satisfaction

by Bernadette Healy

competent and happy

Are you happily engaged in your work and feeling competent? Do you feel like this for a good proportion of the time? If you find yourself struggling to recall the last time you had a week when you mostly felt like that, it may be time for a re-think about your role or even your job! (The exception to this is of course where you are new to the role / job – in such cases it is perfectly natural to feel quite incompetent most of the time!)

Are the areas that you dislike related to a short-term project? Is completion of the disliked tasks clearly related to a specific and highly sought personal goal? If either of these 2 situations apply to you, you are probably able to tolerate the mis-match, but it is preferable in terms of job satisfaction and stress management, that such a situation is only for a defined period of time and accompanied by regular tracking with regard to your stress levels and your goals.

In order to feel a reasonable amount of job satisfaction we need to spend a large proportion of our time at work engaged in tasks that we both enjoy and in which we feel competent. Think about your skills. Are most of them able to be used in your current role? If not, are you happy for that to be the case? Do you have non-work outlets for use of these currently under-utilized skills? If not, can you create an opportunity to do so? There is an in-built stress management component to a life characterized by the ready expression of most of a persons’ attributes, interest areas and competencies. Of course this can occur primarily in a work domain or primarily within one’s personal life, but the risk of experiencing significant stress in either one of these domains is reduced where there is a sense of satisfaction from expression of our personality via our interests and competencies across both the work and personal domains.

How would you rate your level of competence in your work-based skills? How would you rate your level of enjoyment utilizing these skills at work?

Medium to high competency plus medium to high enjoyment of exercising those competencies is the best fit in terms of job satisfaction. Spending most of your time at work in this zone is optimum.

Medium to high competency combined with low levels of enjoyment may be ok for a while or for short, time-bound bursts but when sustained over long periods of time will tend to lead to burnout.

High competence and low enjoyment may also suggest the need for a shift in focus within a current role or
even that it is time for a different role or job.

High competence and low enjoyment may also be due to other factors such as a significant stressor in one’s personal life. In any case if you are very good at what you are doing but have lost enthusiasm and enjoyment doing it, you probably need to spend some time considering possible causes to this situation. And it is worth remembering that just because you are good at something doesn’t mean that you must continue to apply that skill. It may be that you developed a reputation for being good at something, received attention when doing it, and then came to be known as the one who was good at …. but actually, deep down, it may no longer (or ever!) be of interest to you.

Medium to high levels of enjoyment combined with low to medium competence levels suggest the need for further training and development.

It is extremely stressful to be working in a role while feeling that you have insufficient competency but if you are in the first few years of your working life, (or at the beginning of a career change), a reality check is needed to ensure that you do not mis-label yourself or worse, make a decision prematurely based on this feeling of incompetence before you have had a reasonable period of time to learn and develop. Find yourself someone – who you trust –who is at least 3 to 5 years ahead of you in terms of work experience and ask them about their experience of the feeling of competency at the beginning of the job and over the first 12 to 18 months and beyond.

If you are working in a role in which you continue to have low competency combined with low enjoyment, you are quite possibly in the wrong role – and perhaps even the wrong job. You need to think carefully and make a plan about how you are going to get yourself out of what is likely to be a toxic and stress-inducing situation.