Well isn’t that the holy grail of career questions.
It starts as a passing irritation when your mom tells you that cousin Jamie got promoted to manager at work. Then it grows into an all-consuming, "what is my purpose in life" bummer fest when you hear that Michelle in marketing is leaving for a dream job at Evernote for double the pay and free house cleanings (including dishes and laundry!).
You can admit to yourself that you're not happy with your job, that it's time to move on. But you haven’t done anything about it yet. Why? Probably because:
I have no idea where to begin
I don't know what the right thing is
I don't feel like I have any options
I'm interested in too many things
I'm lucky to have any job
What if I don't have the skills and experience to get a better job?
What if I make the wrong choice and have to move back in with my parents?
I don't have the time to look for a new job
The thing is... every day you wait is another day you're miserable—at work and in life.
The kicker is...
YOUR EXCITED-TO-GO-TO-WORK-ON-A-MONDAY JOB IS ALREADY OUT THERE AND IT'S WAITING FOR YOU TO FIND IT.
Jobs are not like soul mates: there isn't just one job in the world that's right for you. In fact, there are many jobs out there, right now, where you could be happy. According to the Self-Determination Theory (HT Cal Newport and science), you need three things to be happy at work:
Autonomy - "the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important."
Competence - "the feeling that you are good at what you do."
Relatedness - "the feeling of connection to other people."
So finding the right job for you isn't about finding the job. It's about finding a job where you're good at what you do at a company that gives you flexibility and great co-workers.
How I found a job I loved (Doing something I hadn't known existed)
What the hell is project scoping?
After a year in a customer support role, I was anxious to move into a new position. I didn't hate my job. I actually enjoyed most things about it. But my husband and I had recently bought a house, and it turned my commute into a two-hour life-suck each day. So while I wanted to move into a position where I could take on new challenges, I also wanted something that would give me a more flexible schedule.
That was when my manager recommended that I speak to the director of the project scoping team. The team was nowhere on my radar. I had no idea what they did or why it mattered. But as it turned out, it was the perfect job for me.
Taking the skills I'd developed in my support role, I would be able to bring immediate value to the scoping team (who helped prospects understand the effort needed to implement our product). That meant I'd also get to learn a new set of skills to add to my arsenal. Plus, the team was full of amazing people, I got a 20% pay bump, and—cherry on top—I got to work from home!
If I had started my job search by looking at what I was passionate about or by looking only for specific job titles, I never would have found that job.
Finding a Job you Love
Now it's time for you to figure out what jobs you'd enjoy. Below you'll find a step-by-step action plan that will walk you through the process of finding your own "dream job."
Let yourself have fun with this process. This is all about you trying on the different jobs that interest you—even if they seem crazy or impossible to get. You might be surprised by what IS possible once you have more information.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Grab a pen and paper or open up your go-to note taking app.
Eliminate distractions. Put your phone on silent and in another room. Close your Facebook and Netflix tabs. You know what distracts you. Get rid of it!
If at any point you need a little kick-in-the-ass to keep you going, go here.
Your Action Plan
Click on each action below to get step-by-step instructions.
The Price of Doing Nothing
Looking for a job is hard. You scour Indeed.com for any job that sounds remotely within your skill set. You send dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes to companies you don't know. You spend months waiting and waiting for someone (anyone!) to respond to you; preferably with an interview request.
Eventually, after an awkward interview, you land a job somewhere. At first, you don't complain too much because you finally have a job! You can now pay your bills and stop asking your parents for money. Then you start noticing how Steven in business dev keeps getting promoted (while stealing the last donut every morning). It starts to irk you every time your boss calls for a "meeting" only to rattle on for an hour about the same old things.
Slowly, what use to be a long day at work turns into a daily battle not to punch your manager in the face as you yell "I quit!" while walking out the door.
But if you do that, you'd be back to looking for a job. You'd be back to asking your parents to help with your student loan payment. You'd feel better for about an hour (even as your hand throbs) before you realize how badly you needed that job. Which is why you don't punch your manager and you accept that you hate your job.
Looking for a job is hard, but fighting daily to keep yourself from imploding with misery and rage is worse. So you could keep looking for a job by papering the internet with your resume. Or you can work through the action plan above, which is hard, but won't result in you wanting to strangle or maim anyone.
By focusing on finding work you enjoy, you risk talking to a lot of strangers, but you won't risk setting yourself up for a life of hating your job.
And you deserve to enjoy your work. You deserve to come home feeling tired but good about what you accomplished.
You deserve a better career—and a better life.
So go get it!