What does “finding a job you’ll love” mean? Having spoken to thousands of people in different jobs, at different stages of their career, we think it comes down to a few essentials.
- You find the work satisfying and it stimulates a desire in you to do good work
- You use skills you are naturally good at, making work feel almost easy
- The effort and reward (both monetary and non-monetary) feel in balance
- What you do fits with what you value
- The work stimulates your curiosity to develop and grow.
But not everyone knows what kind of work they want to do. You may in fact be bewildered by the array of job choices facing you. If you’ve recently graduated or are on the hunt for your first job, perhaps you’ve yet to work out very much about the job market.
Don’t worry. With a bit of preparation, you can take an active approach to finding a job you’ll love, avoiding ‘filling-in’ jobs or the notion that all starting out jobs are basically the same – they are most definitely not!
Get to know yourself
When finding a job you’ll love, you need to know yourself. Knowing yourself requires a big dollop of self-awareness, and that’s good news, because it’s something employers love, and you can actively work on. This means better understanding your:
Energy and motivation
With energy and motivation, it’s less about how you’re feeling on a single given day and more about your deeper motivation. For some, working with data brings a deep sense of satisfaction. For others, it might be working with the elderly. Perhaps music or art is your thing.
It’s as important to consider experiences, relationships and feelings that demotivate you, as it is to think about the positives. So, knowing what you like doing, how you like working, should be countered by understanding what things you find frustrating or irritating.
To understand your motivation for things, it’s helpful to know why you work? This might seem a dumb question – surely, we all ‘work to live’ – to buy the things we need? That may be true at a very basic level, however, we’ve found that money isn’t the only motivator. Just consider the following:
- Prestige – the admiration and respect that an occupation or job holds in society
- Love of learning – mastering your chosen specialism, job role or profession
- To release creative potential – creating something innovative or novel
- Contributing to a purpose – something that impacts your community or a cause
- To feel the pressure to be productive – the hunger for achievement and feedback
- Social connection – being in a group that join to achieve a common purpose
- Power and influence – being last in the line of authority over key decisions
- Financial security – to become financially stable or independent.
There are lots of deep-rooted reasons for wanting to work, beyond just money. Which ones are important to you? Think about your top 3.
Image and personal brand
When finding a job you’ll love, you’ll need to be true to who you are. This means you can be yourself at work. Often when we start out in work we try and fit into someone else’s brand, bending ourselves to see things from an employer’s point of view.
This can work when everything aligns, but it can also lead us to try and create a different persona to the one we truly are. In today’s diverse and inclusive world, you should be able to fit in and bring your true self to work. But if there’s a mismatch, it can be very painful.
Start by creating a personal advertisement for yourself (you can draw a picture, write a story, create an avatar, make a short film – whatever you like doing best). What does this say about what jobs might suit your brand?
Skills, knowledge, and know-how
We can’t all be good at everything. Through life experience, parents, education and genetics, people naturally find they gravitate toward certain things. Perhaps you’re naturally good with people. Maybe you can see insight where other people see only numbers? Maybe you’re practical, or perhaps your thirst for understanding computer coding means you’ve become naturally strong at it.
Focusing on strengths that come more naturally to us, over other things we might find difficult to master or frustrating, is a sure-fire way to find a job you’ll love. It doesn’t mean you won’t have to learn difficult stuff, however, developing strengths has been shown to be easier and more productive than focusing on closing development gaps. Start by listing out your skills, knowledge, know-how and interests.
Values are those standards, behaviours, and morals that are important to you. They summarise how you would like to experience the world you live in. Given you might spend a lot of time in the world of work, knowing your values is critical. Values can be practically anything and we often like to think we value a lot more than we do.
This is about working out which few values define you. For example, you may value collaborating with others to get work done. Perhaps being respected is super important to you. You may value wealth above other things, or you may desire an easy life, staying fit, independence or family. Work out your top 5 values.
Getting to know yourself will not only help you when finding a job you’ll love and understand which jobs might suit you best, but it will also provide you with a narrative that will be useful in job interviews. This way even if you’ve had very little job experience to talk about, at least you can say what you like doing, what motivates, what connects to the type of person you are and your values. Being self-aware like this will help you to fit in quickly, build solid relationships with colleagues and work out what’s important to you and others.
Narrow your choices
Thirty years ago, the average worker was likely to choose a job from 10-20 general occupations. Today, there are literally tens of thousands of job choices out there, and it’s evolving all the time. It’s not surprising then, that finding work that’s right for you rarely jumps off the page. You might assume the perfect job is just waiting to be found. The reality is finding a job that’s good for you requires you to narrow your focus down – not as many would think, open it up.
A good place to start is to think of sectors that are of interest. This is a challenge, as many sectors are very broad (think of medicine for example). You’ll need to break them down into occupations that are of specific interest. Use your work from above to think about subjects of interest, things you value, enjoyable experiences, and things you’ve imagined doing. Make sure you move from vague ideas “I want to work in management” to more specific ones “I want to manage a team of computer coders”. Try narrowing your focus down to 10-15 sectors/areas that you think might be stimulating.
Don’t do this by simply relying on what you think you know, or you’ve heard from friends and family. Do the research and think about what happens in each job or sector “most of the time”. Many people end up in jobs they hate because they thought they would be doing something (working with animals), and they end up doing something else (filling in forms and bureaucracy).
Keep going with this exercise until maybe 5-6 clear areas emerge. When you’ve done this, it’s time to ask for help.
Create a network
When you’re new to the world of work, and you’re unsure about jobs you might love, think about asking for help. You might find it difficult to see your talents or gifts, but someone else with a little more experience could really help you spot and nurture them. Networking is the process of connecting to other people to build high-quality professional or social relationships.
Start by thinking about your current network (yes you do have one!). Not all people you know are the same. The help you get from a family friend, for example, might be very different to the help you get from an old college tutor you now think of as a mentor. There are at least five different networking types to think about:
- Friends and family – people who will automatically and unconditionally give you their support
- Connectors – people well connected who always seem to know what’s going on
- Mentors – people with expert knowledge who are willing to share what they know
- Developers – people who can help you develop, point out your gifts, strengths and gaps
- Inspirers – anyone who encourages and inspires you to action.
Write down the names of those people you already know, who might fit into these categories. Why might this person be willing to help you?
When you ask for support it’s good to formalise your request – this way it makes the person feel more valued. For example, “I really appreciated you at University. I think you might have some expertise I could learn from”. If you approach people in this way, chances are they’ll be flattered that you hold them in high regard.
Identifying and seeking out time generous people is also a big help. When you catch up with someone remember to listen to what they have to say – so don’t hog the airtime. Another trick is to ask them for any connections in the categories mentioned above. This is a great way to grow your network quickly and introduce you to new people. By spending time with people more experienced than you (and potentially in jobs you think you might like) you’ll get a clearer idea of what everything is all about.
So, in summary, if you want to find a job, you’ll love – get to know yourself, narrow your focus and create/extend your network. Good luck with your job search from all the team at Notebook Mentor!