How to Find Work You Truly Love
If you clicked on this article, you probably don't like your job, and you probably have at least a shred of hope that if the stars aligned, you could. But finding fulfilling work isn't something that you should leave up to chance – it takes effort and action.
"Finding work you love really begins and ends with your surroundings," says Scott Dinsmore, founder of Live Your Legend, a site that inspires and prepares people to build careers they love. "Spend your time with people who inspire you and people who refuse to let you give up."
While finding work you truly love might seem like a vague or daunting endeavor, you can take concrete steps to find that kind of fulfillment. These five steps are a great place to start:
1. Surround yourself with people who love their work.
Misery may love company, but it also breeds more misery. "If the people you're surrounded by don't like their work, that's going to bring you down," Dinsmore says. "It'll limit your creativity and infect your ideas."
Don’t shut out unhappy friends, just make a conscious effort to seek positive company. Think of one person you know who inspires you and spend more time with them by inviting them to lunch or an after work yoga class. "If you surround yourself with people who are truly living differently, it changes your belief about what’s possible," Dinsmore says.
2. Work to improve your strengths and talents.
Fulfillment increases as your skills improve because you’re able to utilize your talents to their full potential. "It's really important to spend your time getting better at something," Dinsmore says. "The more time we spend on things we're good at -- getting better at them -- that’s where fulfillment really comes from."
Identify your strengths by noticing what comes easily to you or what you do because it's fun, then work hard to hone those skills. You won't be an expert right off the bat, but if you take a little bit of natural talent and apply a lot of effort, you’ll get there.
3. Identify the impact you want to have on the world.
People who love their work typically feel a sense of purpose -- a sense that their work has a meaningful impact on the world. "We all want to move the needle in some way," Dinsmore says. "That's what really fuels people."
As you choose the impact you want to have, focus on what you actually care about, not what you think you should care about. "A lot of people are working toward a definition of success that is meaningless to them," Dinsmore says. "They’re climbing a ladder to nowhere." Be honest about what really matters to you, then work toward that.
4. Learn as much as you can about the life you want.
When you consider a potential career or industry, research what it's like day-to-day and what it really takes to succeed. "A lot of people assume that a job is glamorous," Dinsmore says. "They don't have a clue what's really involved."
Look behind the scenes to figure out what your field’s experts were doing when they were still unknown. Find role models who are willing to talk with you about their career paths in as much detail as possible, or learn from public resources like books, blogs, panel discussions, and TED talks. Not only will that tell you how to succeed, it will tell you if you want to.
5. Try, and try again.
There is, sadly, no magic bullet for building a career you love or choosing the kind of company you want to start. Finding the right match is a process of trial and error. Low-risk ways to test your options, such as shadowing someone for a day, will help you find what you actually enjoy in practice.
As you look for work you love, you may have to shake up your life, step out of your comfort zone, make a few mistakes. That’s okay. "Treat life as one big experiment or a series of mini-experiments," Dinsmore says. If you stay curious and keep trying, you’ll land where you need to be.
Related: Why Entrepreneurs Choose Freedom Over Money
Nadia Goodman is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY. She is a former editor at YouBeauty.com, where she wrote about the psychology of health and beauty. She earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. Visit her website, nadiagoodman.com.