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  • 2014-09-September

Build a Career Worth Having


Nathaniel Koloc, Harvard Business Review Blog

Reviewed by Kelly Sanders, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC

Author Nathaniel Koloc opens his article with some staggering statistics to illustrate what he describes as “chronic dissatisfaction in the workplace.” He cites Gallop’s 2013 State of the American Workplace study, which found that as many as 70 percent of working Americans were not fulfilled in their work.1 The more staggering statistic revealed that 18 percent of those working who were unfulfilled in their jobs, were actively undermining their co-workers.1 And these statistics are on the rise. In 2010, the Conference Board reported that in their study 55 percent of working Americans were dissatisfied with their jobs.2

Koloc hypothesizes that a key reason for high American worker dissatisfaction is lack of clarity in how one builds a satisfying career in today’s work culture. The author offers three key pearls of advice:

  1. See your career as a series of stepping stones, not a linear trajectory. Each stone is a project, opportunity, or even a job that can move you in the direction of your career goal. The idea is that you move onto stones that help you get closer to what your purpose is or what is meaningful to you. There is not just one path, there are lots of potential paths to get you to your goal and lead to work place fulfillment. Keep an open mind. It is a process… you generally do not get there in one step.
  2. Seek legacy, mastery, and freedom—in that order. Multiple research studies have found that there are three key attributes to fulfilling work.
    • Legacy: This means having a higher purpose, mission, or cause. Basically stated, you feel that in one way or another, your work matters and someone or something will be better after you have done your work.
    • Mastery: This refers to the acquisition of skills and/or talents that you enjoy using, so much so, that you identify yourself with these skills and/or talents. In the physical therapy world you might equate this with becoming a board-certified specialist and meeting the metrics to mentor in a residency.
    • Freedom: This is choice! You get to a point where you have the ability to choose with who you work, what projects you work on, where and when you work each day, and get paid enough to support your desired lifestyle.
  3. Treat your career like a grand experiment. You cannot control all aspects of the trajectory of your career. There are just too many variables. Consider a few that affect physical therapy: health care industry changes, politics/federal payors, economy, and local demographics. Given that, write your career hypothesis, and then with your experiences, work to validate it via different experiences, researching different avenues available, discussions with colleagues, and volunteering. Use these experiences to understand what brings you fulfillment.

Kelly Sanders, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, is a member of the Impact editorial board and is president of Team Movement for Life, a 19-location outpatient physical therapy practice operating in California and Arizona. Kelly can be reached at kelly@movementforlife.com.




1. State of the American Workplace. Gallup Website: www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/163007/state-american-workplace.aspx. Updated April 17, 2014. Accessed April 17, 2014.

2. Survey: More Americans Unhappy at Work. CSB News Website: www.cbsnews.com/news/survey-more-americans-unhappy-at-work. Updated January 5, 2010. Accessed April 17, 2014.

Advanced Class

By Angela Wilson Pennisi, PT, MS, OCS

Have you spent the last few years feeling like the deck is stacked against you in this post-Affordable Care Act era? As a parent of teenagers, I am always surprised by the correlations to be found between parenting and managing my clinic. Both of my sons have played tennis casually since they were children. When my older son started high school last year, joining the tennis team seemed like a natural fit. In preparation, he had begun playing more frequently and participated in some group lessons over the winter. He had a fun season this past spring and learned a lot.

This summer, his coach suggested an advanced training camp, hosted by our local university. With the popularity of competitive sports for children, I am sure many of you can relate to the premium prices these camps command. I signed him up, including a little lecture on how he needed to set aside lots of time to practice over the summer to make it worthwhile.

The first day of camp arrived, but instead of my son coming home to tell me how much he had learned and how excited he was, he was texting me to tell me how it was overcrowded and that he was playing with elementary school children. He was so unhappy that he asked me to talk to the camp director and ask for a refund. Remembering the waiver signed at registration, I knew the likelihood of obtaining a refund was slim, but I contacted the camp to let them know my son was not having a good experience and was not placed in an age-appropriate group.

The camp director called me that evening to follow up and essentially admitted that he had not realized that my son (height, 5’0″) was 15 years old. He was vague about my son’s skill level, but said that he would try him in the advanced group the next day. Taking advantage of this parenting moment, I let my son know the outcome and that he had better have a good night’s sleep and arrive at camp the next day with a fire in his belly to demonstrate that he belonged in the advanced group.

Happily, he was thrilled with his experience the next day and said that he had so much fun, he could not stop thinking about tennis after the camp was over for the day. He chastised me for suggesting he might not be up to the demands of the advanced group and told me how nervous he had been that morning. However, in the end the little guy held his own, surprised those who had underestimated him (including me!), and experienced success.

Is your practice the underdog in your community? Are your competitors underestimating you? Are you underestimating yourself? Can you take advantage of the element of surprise to finish with a strong fourth quarter and use the fire in your belly to prepare for your best year ever in 2015? Just like my son’s tennis game—you have the fundamental skills and preparation. How can you leverage them to compete with the big boys?


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