Everyone talks a lot about how much of a struggle job hunting can be
And while most people who agree that it’s a struggle are typically referring to the crazy, unpredictable maze that includes applying, researching, preparing and interviewing for whatever decent job opportunities they can get their hands on. However, a huge part of why looking for a job can be such as struggle is the fact that, sometimes you don’t even know WHAT you should be looking for! If you’ve ever felt that feeling, it’s not unheard of to think to yourself:
What career path am I actually going for?
…is what I’m doing in my job search setting me up well for that?
These are all some common thoughts that might go through your head specifically if:
1) you’re just starting out in your career OR
2) if you’ve been in many jobs that all don’t feel right for you.
The good news is you’re not alone. A third of people in the U.S. who have a job view the work they do as “just a job to get them by” and pretty much nobody knows what they’re doing when they’re first starting out in the working-world (with very few exceptions)!
So if you’re having a tough time / existential crisis while figuring out what you’re doing in the job world, here’s the key question to be asking yourself:
- Don’t follow passion alone, follow your FIT and future
I am not going to tell you to follow your passion because all too often, when deciding on a career path, people focus only on their passion and the ultimate impact the work will have, which are only part of the story. Satisfaction with your career is about FIT.
In order to find the career that is right fit for you, you must first get in touch with your 4 P’s – passion, personality, preferences (for work pace, type of work, work environment, etc.), and principles (to learn more about these things, take self-assessments such as: What is Your Leadership Personality?). Next, learn more about the work you are considering (beyond simply the ultimate impact) with an emphasis on the *day-to-day* experience of *doing the job.* For example, if you
are interested in becoming an engineering, the ultimate impact might be the skyscraper you designed; but, the *day-to-day* experience is slow-paced, detailed work in front of a computer screen. I often use my own experience to illustrate this point: my first a Clinical Psychologist (without first exploring the fit factors I’ve shared here) because I was passionate about psychology and wanted to help people. Possessing a Driven personality style, I thrive in fast-paced, ever-changing environments working on challenging projects that achieve results. In contrast, as a therapist, while ultimately I helped people improve their mental health (my passion), what I actually did was sit in a chair for 8 hours per day listening to other people. Rather than action-oriented and ever-changing, it was passive, slow-moving, and repetitive. For me, that was an awful fit! In order to find your perfect fit, take an intern role, volunteer, shadow or speak to others that do the work to better understand how the day-to-day experience is aligned with your passion, personality, preferences, and principles.
- Look for the overlap of three things that make up your career “sweet spot”
When you’re wondering “what career is right for me?” it’s best to think about the intersection between what you’re good at, what organizations need done or what the world needs, and what you enjoy doing. The overlap between those three areas is your sweet spot, your career. To help populate this venn diagram, think about your skills and interests, rather than job titles or genres; you might be surprised to see what the things you enjoy doing add up to career-wise and it’ll expand your search, as similar skills can be applied to a wide variety of careers.
Also think about the overall work environment of someone in the different careers you’re considering. Do you thrive when you’re moving around all day or when you get uninterrupted time at a desk? Do you like a predictable schedule or variety? Do you enjoy interacting with others or having solo time to work on projects? Think about when you’ve done your best work and felt your best and use that as a guide to narrow what type of career might be best for you.
Separately, research helps! If you know someone in a field you’re thinking about, ask if they’ll have a short coffee with you (your treat) to discuss the day-to-day duties of the job. Interviewing itself is another good way to figure out what career is right for you. You can learn a lot about jobs by being interviewed for them, and an interview often forces you to boil down your interests and skills even if it ends up not being a good fit.