Asking ‘Which job is right for me?’ is a daunting question for many of us – it’s one of the most important decisions we have to make, but one that we often feel quite alone and unsupported trying to explore.
And there’s a lot riding on it.
Finding meaningful and satisfying work brings us success and happiness across many areas of our life. But poor career decisions can not only make us feel trapped and unhappy, but they can damage our prospects, relationships, quality of life and earning potential for years to come. Which puts a lot of pressure on us to know what we want to do!
Unless we gain skilled vocational qualifications or study very specific subjects at university, our career path is wide open and many of us end up in a certain sector or profession through a mix of chance, timing and opportunity. If you’re serious about finding your calling (or just finding a job you actually like!), there are some very practical things you can be doing.
For this exercise, you’ll need a piece of paper, a pen, a cup of tea (or something stronger!) and a promise you’ll be brutally honest with yourself…
1. Work out your skills
What are your natural aptitudes and which skills have you developed through education, training or experience? Make a list – include everything you can think of, it’s better to have too many to start with than too few!
2. Know your personal values
Are there some things you won’t/can’t compromise on? (For example, your personal or religious beliefs, the ethical nature of a company, etc.) No matter how many boxes a job role or sector ticks, if it directly conflicts with an important personal value, it’ll never be satisfying or acceptable work.
3. Identify your strengths
Knowing very clearly what you’re good at can help with career planning – we posted a great free strengths test on our social media channels recently which might help. But be aware that the things we’re good at aren’t necessarily what we enjoy doing. Which is why the next step is equally important…
4. Explore what brings you joy
Make a list of the main activities that bring you joy – the things you’d choose to do if you had a chunk of free time, or that you’d do for no money. The dream is to end up in a job which plays to your interests and passions as much as possible (disclaimer: you do have to be realistic here – no-one is going to pay you to lie in bed watching Netflix all day, no matter how much joy it brings you!).
5. Understand and accept your constraints
Be realistic about the wider constraints of your life – do you have geographic limitations, family/carer responsibilities, physical disabilities, mental health issues, limited qualifications, etc? Most of us have some level of constraint we need to work within and it’s important you’re both honest and clear about them, with yourself and with any potential employer. There’s no point convincing yourself you can ‘work it out’ for a job when there are uncompromisable limits to your working ability.
6. Be clear on your (current) level of professional ambition
Are you looking for a single job forever? Do you like the idea of moving through different roles? Do you hope to take a career break to have a family? Would you consider running your own business? Understanding your current level of ambition will really help you to see your career path a little more clearly. (It’s also never too early to start thinking about your retirement – what age do you want to retire? How much money do you need in the pot to make that a reality?)
7. Start talking!
Armed with your list, we suggest you start talking – ask your family, friends and colleagues if they think your list matches their opinion of you (you might be surprised how many skills, values or strengths you’ve missed!); ask them how they found out what they wanted to do; update or create your LinkedIn profile and post about exploring your career options and see what comes back; look on digital jobs boards like CV Library and Reed to see what kinds of role come up when you search your skills and strengths. This is your chance to solidify and refine your list.
8. Find professional support and advice
You could work with a specialist career coach or job counsellor, or you could register with a recruitment agency. We’re always keen to work with people who are exploring their options and can help you to analyse and review your list to identify the potential opportunities available to you locally. We can also make sure your CV reflects the attributes you’ve discovered doing this exercise.
It’s not necessarily going to be easy or quick, but it is absolutely a realistic goal to find a job that you love.
Good luck – please let us know how you get on and drop us a line if we can help you.