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Every once in a while, someone wanders onto our blog as a result of a web search for terms like “fulfillment terms and conditions” or “fulfillment and its cycle”. These folks are obviously looking for guidance in the area of order fulfillment — the procedures and logistics that companies use to respond to requests from customers. When you order a pen from Amazon and it arrives at your doorstep two days later, that’s order fulfillment.

Perhaps to the disappointment of those business-oriented web searchers, Figuring Out Fulfillment is dedicated instead to exploring career fulfillment, which might be defined as a state of contentment generated by the alignment of one’s work with one’s goals, preferences, and talents. Sadly, this is not something you can order online.

We live in a culture that relies upon dependable order fulfillment. We are used to going to a pizza parlor, or a beauty parlor, or an ice cream parlor, or a funeral parlor, and making a request for a specific good or service. And we expect that, other than making payment, that’s all we have to do to receive what we want. We are trained from a young age that if we can identify a specific object of desire, and pay the right supplier, then that is all we need to do to expect it to be delivered unto us.brown parcel

No wonder career fulfillment seems so difficult. There is no vendor of career satisfaction. We can’t get online or walk into a mall, make a request for a job in a specific field with a 40-hour work week devoted to a rewarding task that demands creativity and energy (with options like spiritual meaning, improving the world for all humanity, and a one-to-one employer 401(k) match), and expect that someone will deliver it to us in a box with a 30-day return policy. This is an area in which we cannot expect to receive satisfaction from someone else. This is a do-it-yourself project. We must look to ourselves.

But that does not mean the order fulfillment model is entirely worthless. If it teaches us anything, it’s that expectation is only justified when you clearly articulate what you want. If someone tried to order a coat from L.L. Bean without specifying the model, the size, and the color, they’d be crazy to wait by their mailbox, expecting what they want to arrive. The vendor cannot vend without specifics, and even if it did, the customer would almost certainly end up with something that doesn’t fit.

Handle with care

Handle with care

In this way, career fulfillment and order fulfillment overlap. If you don’t feel fulfilled in your work – if there is something more you want out of it –- the first step is to clearly articulate, to yourself, what you want. Maybe it’s money; maybe it’s time; maybe it’s respect; maybe it’s originality. Probably it will be a list of things. Whatever it is you want, you won’t be able to work towards satisfying that desire until you define it. In career fulfillment, you are both the customer and the vendor. At least one of you has to know what you are in the market for.