What Is Your Dream Job? Ask Yourself These 4 Questions to Find Out. Too many of us don't love our jobs — and worse, we think that's normal. Why are we settling? Here are four ways to help you identify what kind of job you really should have.
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Countless clients, colleagues and friends have said something like this to me: "My job is good; not great. It pays the bills. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't do this. Maybe I'm not supposed to be in love with my career; lots of people don't love their job. I'm bored. It's okay for now."
These comments make me cringe. Most of us spend more waking hours at our jobs than with our families. Most of us also spend 40 years (or more) of our lives working. Shouldn't we all have a job we truly love? Shouldn't we all find work that lights us up inside? Shouldn't we enjoy being at work? I think so.
Since becoming a professional coach, I've encouraged clients to truly swing for the fences when it comes to their work. If you're not in love with your job and would like to improve it, here are four places you can start. Grab a pen.
1. What do you love to do?
If you could do anything at all, what would you do? If you had to work for no pay, what would you do? In the moments where you feel most happy at work, what are you doing? Is it the filing of reports; pouring over the financials; negotiating with clients; coaching your employees; or making presentations?
Often, people like some part of their job, just not all of it. What if you could love all of it? Honing in on the parts you love will help you identify the kind of work that lights you up. Once you know what it is, you can consider roles where you'd do more of the work you love.
In the past, when I did this exercise myself, I realized I loved coaching and mentoring others. I also loved writing and creating things like board reports or training manuals. I got to do those things often, but not always. My job also required me to spend time in risk, audit, compliance and technology.
While I loved my boss and the organization, I realized that for me to truly love my role, I'd need to be coaching more. That's where my idea of becoming a coach was born. Asking yourself what you truly love and what you don't is the first place to start.
2. What are your natural talents?
What have you been praised for doing well? What compliments have you received about your work? What are you naturally better than others at? All of us have natural talents — things that our brains and bodies are naturally more inclined to do better than others. When we practice and apply effort to our natural gifts, we often become superstars. Being a superstar feels good.
A job that utilizes your natural talents and gifts will fit like a glove. For example, communicating, teaching and building relationships have always come easily to me — technology, computer science and engineering have not.
Over the years, the praise I've gotten at work has all centered around my ability to inspire and engage people, but I've never once been complimented on my ability to solve technical problems. I'd be a terrible IT employee. It would take months or years for me to learn skills in space because I know I don't have a predisposition for it and I also am not interested in it. Doing what we're naturally good at feels great. Figuring out what you can be the best at is a great place to start.
3. What can you get paid well to do?
When we love our work and are naturally gifted at it, we tend to excel at it. When we excel, we contribute a tremendous amount of meaningful value. The right job will pay us for that value accordingly.
If you're pursuing your passion and are talented at it, you shouldn't be in a situation where you're just scraping by or barely making ends meet. If you're with the right company and you have the right boss, you should be able to command more than just a modest income — you should be able to thrive. If you're a top performer and crushing metrics, your pay should be commensurate. If it isn't, I encourage you to have a conversation with your boss or HR.
Perhaps others don't see you as you see yourself. Perhaps you need additional training or certification. Great! Do those things. But if you've had the conversation more than once and nobody cares, it's likely time to look for a role that sees your value and will pay you for it. The truly ideal job for you won't have you clipping coupons, so speak up and believe in worth.
4. What jobs work with your life?
Some companies have great reputations for being the first or the best. They're reputable organizations with well-known names. But some of them are also known for burning folks out. Work-life balance isn't a "thing" everywhere.
Some organizations expect their employees to work around the clock, even on weekends. While these companies are incredible training camps, especially for young people, they often struggle to retain long-term talent because most people want to have a personal life. If you've got a family or hobbies that are important to you, it's crucial that you don't settle for a job that restricts this. If you want a balanced and meaningful life, but have to regularly work nights and weekends, you're probably in the wrong job.
At some point, you'll feel that you're sacrificing something (like your family or those hobbies) and you'll feel incongruent and misaligned. Over time, that will breed resentment towards the job itself. A job that makes it nearly impossible to see your kids, stay in shape, take a class, join a club or see your friends isn't a very good job. I feel confident that you really can "have it all," and the right job is going to value your personal life as much as your professional one.
Finding the perfect job can be tough, but if you consider these four factors, it'll be within reach.