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




1. State of the American Workplace. Gallup Website: Updated April 17, 2014. Accessed April 17, 2014.

2. Survey: More Americans Unhappy at Work. CSB News Website: Updated January 5, 2010. Accessed April 17, 2014.

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