I wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember. I loved animals from an early age, so it seemed inevitable. But lots of little girls say they want to be veterinarians. Throughout school, I loved science and biology, so my fate was sealed. Despite a foray into performance, drama and photography in high school, I was on an express train to veterinary medicine.
When I finally graduated, I chose to start working in practice over specialization and more training. I was done with school, broke and ready to use my skills in the real world.
The first few years were all consuming. Partially because I worked whenever I could to make extra money to pay down my loans. Also because the degree only prepares you for how to answer all the questions you are faced in the real world. So much to learn.
Like many professionals, I found that the ivory tower of school did not necessarily reflect real life. Pets came attached to humans, with budgets and opinions and, more recently, Facebook experts to tell them what to do with their pets.
I thought the clients were the problem. So I changed to research, then corporate, and many other areas of veterinary medicine, seeking…something. I hopped around, searching for some missing piece to complete the puzzle of job satisfaction.
I found it, but in an unlikely place. It wasn’t until I started combining my unique style of creativity with my passion for data and science, that I found what was missing. My creativity.
Left behind in a mad rush to achieve my “Career,” it had become unimportant and frivolous. The late-night Christmas ornament painting sessions during University had been a necessity – budget gifts for friends and family. What I didn’t realize was that I was also giving myself a gift – the positive effects of using my everyday creativity.
I’ve talked before about the positive effects of creativity on well being and happiness. It makes sense that someone who is generally happier would be more satisfied at work.
Many studies have highlighted the influence of everyday creativity on job satisfaction. Creative employees have higher job satisfaction (Bakanou, 2015, Shalley 2000). Group creativity in organizations is positively correlated with job satisfaction. Also, individuals who use creativity at work are perceived more positively by coworkers.
Essentially, employees who use their creativity are more engaged at work, and engaged workers are more creative. Like the peanut butter and chocolate treat at work. Something as small as the freedom to decorate your desk with personal items can increase happiness and engagement at work.
To the organization’s benefit, employees who use their creativity are half as likely to be looking for another job. Our new entries to the workforce, Gen Z, believe (85%) that creativity will be instrumental to their success.
I would like to take a moment to point out a flaw in my own thesis. It seems so simple, to just allow people to express their creativity at work. However, exercising creativity must involve risking failure and facing ambiguity.
This can only be done in an environment where one feels safe to do so. So, creativity at work is intertwined with psychological safety, and if someone has that figured out then we would not even be having this one-sided conversation.
Now, I am still working as a locum tenens veterinarian combined with my keynote public speaking. I have found that working less hours with pet clients helps me to weather the stresses with more composure.
Public speaking has taught me to focus on the audience, in the pursuit of serving others, instead of my own ego. I have taken this idea into my veterinary work, and that small reframe has helped significantly. My job satisfaction is higher when I don’t try to take on the emotional labour involved in pet care. I am there to serve, not to make decisions or to force anyone to do anything.
Secondly, I make sure to give myself breaks between shifts so that I can be refreshed instead of exhausted.
Finally, having strong boundaries around my emotional energy, as well as compensation and schedule have been instrumental to my job satisfaction. As a self-employed contractor, I call the shots, make the schedule and submit the taxes. I have nobody to blame but myself if I don’t like my boss. This has helped me, someone with ADHD and authority figure issues, because I struggle to work within a framework that doesn’t make sense, dictated by others.
It has taken many decades, but I finally have awareness on the best ways for me to build job satisfaction, and the most positive environments for my true potential to shine. I have used my creativity to make hard choices on how to “create” a professional life that works for me.
Job satisfaction takes in many factors, from your coworkers to managers to company policy, and whether your skills are a good fit for the job. One way to increase satisfaction for yourself or others is to engage in everyday creativity, then reap the rewards.
In Other News…
Brittany Lyseng was on my interview series, Creative Lifescaping, last year and we discussed her transition from elevator mechanic to comedian after realizing she was unhappy in her industry.
Watch the replay here.
Want to know the secret to a 94% employee satisfaction score? Natasha Purnell is a Chief Culture Officer at Park Insurance and shares her tips on creating a culture where employees stay happy!
Watch the replay here
Did you know I’m on TikTok?
I’ve even done a couple of videos on the topic of employee engagement and the importance of leaning into ambiguity to generate more creative ideas.
Click one of the images below to watch these TikToks.
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