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How do you find your ideal job?

Have you ever stopped to think about the percentage of time that you spend at work? The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published data showing that the average person over 25 years of age with a college degree works over 8 hours a day. When you spread this number out over an entire week, the average person spends 24% of their time at work. The work you do for a living has a significant impact on the person that you are. Work provides the foundation for many of your relationship. It influences what you think. Exposes you to new and difference experiences. Provides you with the income you need to live. It also impacts your energy and your mood. For this reason, finding work that fulfills your physical and psychologic needs is important to living a healthy life.

To help to put the importance of your job into context, image that your life was a quilted blanket. This quilt is made up of different squares that represent your physical health, emotional wellbeing, family, friends, physical environment, personal development and spiritual life. If you placed your job on that blanket, how many squares would it touch? For many of the clients that I work with, their jobs impact every segment of their life. In defining your ideal job, part of what you must take into consideration is what impact your job will have on other segments of their life. Changes in one area of your life, can have a spillover impact on others. In identifying your ideal job, it is important to understand your overall personal goals and how your job supports or detracts from those goals. This will influence the characteristics of your ideal job.

What needs will work solve?

The first step to defining your ideal job is identifying the needs you are solving for by working. Work satisfies different needs. The most basic need that

work satisfies is the need for income. The majority of people work to be able to meet physiological needs such as clothing, housing, food and water. Work also provides the foundations for safety needs such as security and safety. Once you meet those needs, work can address psychological needs like providing a sense of belonging and relationships along with support of your self-esteem. In addition, work can help you to find a sense of fulfillment by providing opportunities to pursue personal interests, contribute to your personal development or allow you to make a larger societal impact than you could on your own. As you define what your ideal job would be, it is important to define what personal needs you are looking to serve. When I work with clients, I encourage them to consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and define which needs their job will help them to address.

Who you want to be?

The next step in the process is to define who you want to be. Work provides you the opportunity to develop new skills and grow as an individual. The roles you pursue in your career will influence who you are outside of work. For example, if you want to work for a particular company, it might require you to relocate to a different city. This would expose you to a different environment and new experiences. It will also cause changes in your personal relationship. By taking the time to define who you want to be, you are able to decide what sacrifices and trade-offs you are willing to make to achieve your goals.

A perfect example of this is the sacrifices that you have to make if you are looking to be Chief Operations Officer (COO) for a large retail company. Being a COO for a large retail company requires you to travel. Generally, to execute the role at a high level, you have to get out into the field, observe operations, listen to the team, and provide guidance for improving operations. If you are a person that enjoys travel, then this could be an ideal job for you. Conversely, if you are someone that hates airports, staying in hotels, or spending a lot of time in cars, being in this role might not be the best fit. Being clear on

  • What things you love doing?

  • What things you are willing to do?

  • What things you want to avoid doing?

will help you to identify what your ideal job should be.

What type of work?

Once you have clarity on who you want to be, the next step is to narrow in on the type of work that you want to do. You can do this by reviewing your work, education and volunteer history and documenting the different skills that they have developed. Documenting your skills is useful in two ways. One, it gets you to think beyond titles, and really identify what capabilities you have developed over your life. Second, it provides you a list of skills that you can review to identify what type of work you enjoy and are good at doing. With this information, you can start to identify different roles that would play well to your current experience and strengths.

Next, you will want to research different job possibilities. This means using Google, LinkedIn, your personal networks and other resources to begin to learn more about what types of jobs exist that would give you the opportunity to leverage your strengths, while also satisfying your person needs. Casting a wide net here is important. You are limited by what you do not know. The more information you can gain around the different types of jobs that exist, the more options you will have for pursuing employment opportunities.

As you start to complete your research, it is important to narrow in on the key characteristic you are looking for from a job. Beyond the type of work, it is important to identify the following.

  • How much money do you want to make?

  • How many hours do you want to work?

  • Are you willing to relocate?

  • How far are you willing to commute?

  • What type of benefits you looking for?

  • What type of internal or external customers do you want to serve?

The answer to each one of these questions allows you to narrow down the types of jobs that you will apply for. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to find a job, you have likely put too many constraints on the type of work you are willing to do. By adjusting your answer to just one of these questions, you will find that you will expand your employment possibilities.

Who do you want to work for?

The final step that you will need to take is to define who you want to work for. This answer will vary greatly depending on your prior experience and purpose for working. If money is the primary driver, the answer is simple. You will work for whom ever will pay you the most. Since most people are looking for more than just money from their job, it is beneficial to define criteria for the type of place that you want to work. Do you like a lot of structure? Then a government job might be ideal for you. Do you like working on a lot of new and different task? Then a start-up or small business might be perfect for you. The type of work that you do can vary significantly based on the industry, company and even location which you work. The clearer you are in defining what you want, the closer you will get to finding your ideal job. A few questions to ask yourself are

  • What type of environment do I thrive?

  • How much power do I want to have over day-to-day activities?

  • How much interaction do I want to have with my peers or supervisor?