I love the fresh start a New Year brings. It gets us thinking of the areas of life where we’re most miserable and most grateful (I tend to linger more on the former). Many people are like me and feel a pull for a change in the top four categories that cause the most angst: health, desire (or not) for companionship, children and the worry they bring, and having a job that is serving one’s needs.
In my experience, these are the constant categories where people feel imbalance and a need for change. Of these four, the easiest category to change is our job. Now, let’s tackle the more elusive topic of how to find a job you’ll love. People are happiest in a job when they are doing what they are hard-wired to do, are getting what they need, and the work links in with the bigger picture of their life.
Answer this for me: what are you good at and is fun for you? (not things you can do, but might otherwise drain you of energy?) Your hard-wiring — your true gifts — are those things, and when you have a job that uses your gifts every day, you’ll be very close to loving your job.
If you don’t know, your first step is to figure this out. You are perfect the way you are. Everyone has a gift to give this world, and your gift is wrapped in the layers of your core strengths. But, your job might not be perfect for you. If you feel incongruent, grumpy, irritable, short-tempered, know that work is too hard or too boring, you are not living in your strengths. You’ll be a lot happier in a job that aligns with your gifts. Step 1 to finding a job you’ll love is to do what you are hard-wired to do.
Recently, we were working with a client, “Doug” who was miserable, but didn’t know why, and he came to us to get help. He was doing work that he was wired for, being paid great money and making a wonderful contribution to the world. What was causing his unhappiness?
We asked him, “What do you need from a job?” Everyone has four to six things that they need from a job. The uncompromisable deal breakers. I’ve asked this question a lot, and I hear the same 20 things over and over. It’s like a deck of cards — you have your own four to six things and I have mine, but with enough people, we’ll start to see we have similar hands.
Doug needed to have flexibility, autonomy, believe in the company mission, be recognized, and contribute. I often hear other statements like: work on a team, consistent schedule, make a difference, have fun, work alone, healthcare benefits, and make money.
That question alone isn’t enough; the answer must be defined in its unique way for each of us by asking “How do you know you have this?” For Doug, flexibility meant that he could set his own schedule, autonomy meant that he controlled his projects. It turned out that he hated his job because every week he hopped on a plane on Monday and came home on Friday. He had no control over his schedule or his autonomy, which he needed to be present with his family. What do you need from a job?
The last step is to imagine yourself 20 years into the future. I want you to close your eyes and imagine what life should be like then. What do you notice about your life and what did work do for it? What is your why?
We spend the best hours of our day and the best years of our lives working, and we should love our jobs. It is the one area of our lives where we truly have full control over our happiness. 2018 is the year of big changes — a time for you to have a job you’ll love because you’re doing what you’re hard-wired to do, getting everything you need from the job, and knowing you’re meeting your bigger goal for your life.
Kendra Prospero is the CEO and Founder of Turning the Corner, a Boulder-based organization that does recruiting the way it should be done for the job seeker and the company.