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Ever Wondered if You're in the Right Career?

a desk with scribbled papers

Working from home might have changed the way you work, and it might have even changed the nature of your job altogether. You might discover that sitting behind a screen all day does not excite you (which is no surprise), and the core of your job no longer feels suitable for you. Do you find yourself wondering whether - with all the perks, distractions, and social aspects of your job stripped away - you're even working in the right field?

The myth of 'finding your passion'

First of all, I would like to invite you to give up the idea of 'finding your one true passion', which you will pursue for the rest of your life. I feel like our generation is obsessed with finding their unique purpose, which will motivate them to get up every day for the rest of their lives, and make them feel magically fulfilled and happy.

Don't get me wrong, some people might have found one passion that fulfils them, and they're happily working in this field. But many people don't have this single dominant passion that will completely fulfil them. Many of us are 'scanners', as Barbara Sher described in her book 'Refuse to Choose!' (read an excerpt here), meaning we are interested in a variety of subjects, not willing to choose only one that we focus all our attention on.

It's important to understand that you don't have to dedicate your life to your profession and focus all your energy on pursuing it. It's okay to pursue different things at the same time, or even dabble into different fields one after the other. Personally, I never wanted to dedicate my life only to my day job, I always wanted to keep hobbies and side projects to feed my other interests. Like the Disney movie 'Soul' illustrates, "your spark is not your purpose". You can find meaning and excitement in many things in life, it doesn't have to be your single purpose.

We're not all the same, so it's okay if you found one passion or purpose in your life, but it's equally okay if you don't have one single passion, and split your time and attention between different things.

After you've let go of the pressure to find the perfect job, let's look at how you can find a suitable job that won't make you hate your life. Who knows - you might find the ideal job for you, or you'll find one job that you try and enjoy, and then move on to something else.

Whether you're just starting your career, or have been working for a while and want to re-evaluate your current path, I've put together a process to find the kind of job that's most suitable for you. These are the steps:

1. Outline your own strengths

You should begin by defining your own strengths and values, so that you can find a career that plays into those. List the traits you know are your strengths: things you do well, do with ease, get good feedback from other people on, and things other people thank you for. You should end up with a personal profile that characterizes you. If you're not sure or want to find more unique strengths, personality tests are a great way to uncover them.

Here are some tests you can use:

  1. Strengthsfinder 2.0 from Gallup (ca. 25€) The Strengthsfinder will give out your 5 biggest strengths, together with a list of action items to capitalize on those. For me, the test was pretty accurate and I found the action items especially valuable to become more aware of my own behaviors, and use my strengths for personal growth.

  2. 16personalities (free) Many of us have done this test before, which characterizes your personality based on 4 key criteria. It's possible that you're in a different bucket at different times of your life (my results, for instance, were INFJ-T and ISFJ-T when I took the test at 2 different points in time. But as you can see, only 1 letter is different, so the difference is usually small). You get an extensive analysis for your type, related to different areas of your life (career, relationships, family) and can purchase more premium features, but I found the free results very valuable already.

  3. CareerExplorer (free) This test is interesting for people who haven't chosen a career path yet, or who want to change the field they're working in, as it gives you a list of job titles based on your answers to a set of partially weird questions. I wouldn't say it's worth the 30 minutes time investment though.

  4. RedBull Wingfinder (free) This mix of personality test and IQ test will provide you with a printable 'talent passport' as well as a 20-page document that sorts your top strengths into a 4-part framework split into Drive, Creativity, Connections, and Thinking. After taking a full 35 minutes to go through the questions, I found the results rather generic and not entirely accurate.

When doing personality tests, always take the results with a grain of salt, since all tests have flaws and never portray you 100% accurately. So if you don't feel like the results match you, feel free to disregard them, or only work with the characteristics that describe you well. You can also do different tests and take only the overlapping results.

2. Define your core values

Once you have an overview over your strengths, list out your 3 core values. These are the values you live by every day, which you would never betray. These can be values like honesty, security, fairness, harmony, reputation, or community. You can choose from this list of 50 examples.

The reason you define your values is because those are what keeps you going when the job gets tough. Your values give meaning to what you do. As Mark Manson writes in this very helpful article, we wouldn't necessarily enjoy the things we enjoy if we would have to do them under pressure or as a daily job. Even a job you enjoy has tough days, so you need to know why you're doing it to stick with it.

3. Characterize your ideal working environment

Now ask yourself what you want to get out of your job (this is probably related to your values). Are you in it only for the money, and don't care what you do for it, or do you need a fulfilling purpose or a comfortable environment to feel good about your job? Is your main priority to be surrounded by inspiring colleagues you can learn from, or to make a direct difference in people's lives? Maybe you need a clear routine and structure from your job, or you need disruption and excitement. Try to find the most important qualities you are looking for in a job.

Put together a list of requirements you have for your working environment, to describe exactly which kind of place you want to work in. Make it as specific as possible. This could look like: collaborative team, flat hierarchies, relaxed atmosphere, flexible working hours, or competitive team, fast-paced environment, structure, clear instructions.

4. Match your requirements with actual jobs

Once you defined your ideal workplace, brainstorm where you might find such a workplace and which kind of job would give you those benefits. If you can't think of anything, talk to your network and ask other people about the environment they work in. That way you can get a glimpse of different areas and map out the characteristics of those workplaces.

It's also possible that you can't think of any workplaces that match your criteria. Starting your own business or working as a freelancer are probably the most flexible ways to create your own working environment. But if you're not the type of person for those paths, there are certain jobs you could try for a year or so, which provide glimpses into different industries and jobs, and therefore help you discover jobs that might be interesting for you. Working in consulting, for instance, can give you broad insights into different fields. Working for small companies and start-ups can also give you broader experience, since you might be required to cover a lot of different tasks.

Or if you really don't have a clue, you can try something Roman Krznaric describes in his book 'How to Find Fulfilling Work': job dating. One of the people he interviewed for the book found herself a part-time job, and asked other people with interesting careers whether she can shadow them or work with them for 3 days or more. That way she sampled a range of different careers and found a job that excited her. You could do the same during two weeks of vacation or even a sabbatical you take from your full-time job.

Maybe one job is not able to fulfil your criteria. Would there be multiple jobs that each fulfil a part of your requirements? Maybe you don't want 1 full-time job, but can do different things part-time? If you allow your imagination to go wild, what would a bespoke career for you look like?

Lastly, it's also possible that you don't need to change jobs to find a more fulfilling career. Maybe your current job already fulfils your most important criteria, or matches your personality. Sometimes, we only need to change the conditions in which we work, or slightly change our focus, to make our jobs more fulfilling. You could try to eliminate, delegate or reduce the parts of your work that don't suit your strengths, and increase the tasks that play into your strengths. Maybe you can negotiate a bit more flexibility in your working week, or take on a short term project to get a glimpse into a different field.

Disclaimer: I wrote this article from my personal perspective, which is a very privileged one, and understand that not everyone is in the same position. You might not find this article very helpful if you don't work in a corporate job, but I find that many people in our generation deal with similar thoughts, so maybe you will still get some value out of it.

Further resources

There are many great resources out there on how to find a job or career you like, and these are my favorites:



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