Your ultimate guide to find a job you love without compromising your salary or lifestyle.
Getting a job might be simple, but finding the right job that suits you may be a bit more difficult. When I say right, I don’t only mean a job that pays generously, but a job that makes you feel good at work- right culture, right people and also where a toxic manager isn’t questioning your abilities, that you know to be stellar. A job where you don’t feel like you are running in circles, but a job that helps you grow as a person and in skill set, that ultimately translates into a higher income and a higher impact.
A job that doesn’t feed you thoughts like:
What am I doing with my life?
Is this the job I always wanted to do?
How do I find a job I love?
May be, you have even ventured to Reddit or Fishbowl in search or answers. Or taken a “How to find a job you love quiz” or two.
According to research by Jack Kelly, more than half of U.S. employees are unhappy with their jobs. Another study in America says that one-third of all employees view their job as merely workplace chores to get them by, instead of viewing it as a stepping stone to levitate their careers. And these are from pre-pandemic times.
During the pandemic, the popular organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, called out a term, he refers to as languishing- trouble concentrating, joyless and aimless, but not quite burned out or depressed. And I don’t think there’s a better term to describe most of what employees feel at work today, and have perhaps felt for decades. Joyless, helpless, but need the job because it pays the bills.
So if you are someone just starting your career but don’t know where to start or someone amidst a not-so-happy job, this post is for you.
Remember, you are not alone in this unsorted version of the life. Hundreds of people have asked me for my career change blueprint, and after having far too many conversations, I can tell you for sure that if it feels like you are the unique little snowflake who is feeling like this, chances are that even the co-worker you spoke to last afternoon about work, is also exactly in the same boat, but they hid it from you, just like you hid it from them.
What if it didn’t have to be this way?
What if you could have a job that fulfills your soul and have a high income and impact on the world simultaneously?
What if, you started with asking, “What job is right for me?” Instead of asking “How to find a high paying job?”
What job is right for me?
Finding the job you love going to every day can be a time-consuming process, but with the right direction, you can get there. So the first task would be to identify what job is right for you or, in other words, what job fits you.
For that, you may need to dive deeper and introspect. What do you love doing? What is your expertise? What work gets you into a state of flow? And what are you passionate about?
But we cannot limit ourselves to only passion, right? Passion can smash through a million bolted doors, but walking through the mist with only passion in hand might not be the best strategy. Because I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I am convinced that the biggest passion of my life is to snooze, closely followed by Netflix and chill. And unless you want to make a living by testing different mattresses to sleep on, (yes, mattress testing is a real job!!) not making too much money, I’d pass that opportunity!
So, what else could you do? What if, like my passion, your passion doesn’t cut it for you?
In this guide, you will find how to find a job you love in the next 2-3 months, even if you don't know what it is right now. We were not featured on FeedSpot and Yahoo Finance for no reason!
Why Starting With Passion Might Be a Terrible Idea While Finding a Career Fit
“Follow your passion, and don’t live someone else’s life” are some of the most impactful words that get thrown around.
But if you are anything like me, the first image that flashes to my mind is someone in a graduation robe and a speech about following your passion.
Or random people on the internet posing next to a helicopter, telling you how their passion made them successful, and boom! Everything feels achievable, and every second person thinks following the passion alone will take them places.
They talk about passion and consistency, but no one talks about the strategy, the risks and sacrifices, and the trade-offs.
But you are wiser than that, and you know all that glitters isn’t gold. In fact, perhaps far from it!
Here are a few things to consider:
What if you have more than one passion?
You can develop multiple passions throughout your career journey that you would want to pursue in life. However, picking one at random can limit you to sticking to only one narrow path that doesn’t fulfill your soul. It leaves zero space for creativity.
To hit this home, consider Steve Job’s Stanford Commencement speech, talking about connecting the dots backwards. Or Naval when he talks about specific knowledge in this podcast. When you combine rare and lucrative skills, you start to suddenly play in a small niche market that can make you tons of money, and also be joyful and impactful because instead of following your passion, you are following your obsession.
Passions evolve with time.
One thing we all can unanimously agree on is that humans evolve with time in every stage of life. What we loved back then is now not so breathtaking anymore to us. Right? Your passion might push you to wake up early, do all the hard work, and get that deserving job you were so passionate about.
But imagine, five years into that work, and now your passion does not excite you as it did back then, now what? You did not leave any space for other passions to grow along the journey, so now you feel stuck in a place. You are doing something you don’t love anymore. You are unhappy, and now you ask yourself if it was all a mistake, followed by self-doubts. You tell yourself that at least I am paying bills from this job, but is the money everything a person should see in a job?
You perhaps feel broken because you followed your passion and now you feel stuck.
Nothing is wrong with you my friend. This simply means that your skillset has evolved over the years and you have gotten bloody good at what you do. CONGRATULATIONS!! Rejoice!!
And now, let me introduce you to the theory of FLOW by the brilliant, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Even when you passionately love what you do to start off with, the excitement wears off as you get better at it. How do I know? When I started my data science career, I used to be a code nerd. Loved it so much that I didn’t need food or sleep as long as I could code.
10 years later, not so much! But there are other things I have started investing time and energy in in my job.
So, as your career progresses, it is but obvious that your passion will evolve. And it is okay to change careers in your 30s, 40s, or even later. I am currently working with a student going through a career transition in her 60s and she couldn’t be more grateful that she is, because she feels alive once more to not just be paying the bills!
Following your passion alone doesn’t guarantee success!
There! I said it!!!
What about all the motivational speeches and the gurus telling us otherwise? Have we been lied to?
Well, I’m afraid, yes!
Consider this- it is 100% easier to sustain focus in something you are passionate about. But, just because you are passionate, doesn’t mean you are skilled at it. To go back to my example of being passionate about sleeping, just because I am passionate about sleeping, doesn’t mean that I am skilled at testing out mattresses or being skilled at reviewing them.
Passion is a good ingredient to have in your career, but what makes you successful is not passion but mastery. And on that topic, I highly recommend delving into the research of Cal Newport. I am a fan of expertise and finding something you want to eventually become an expert in, rather than a fleeting interest.
So, if you are starting your career, or considering a career change, chasing passion might not be the best thing to do. Alongside passion, here’s what you should look for in a job:
Follow your FIT
By fit, I mean a job that fits you in every sense- a job that fits your personality, a job well-matched with your preferences, and a job that doesn’t go against your principles. And pays the bills and then some more!
Confirm that it is a viable career in the long run
Choosing a career is a big part of life, so while doing that, make sure to do your homework- complete research about the career you are opting for. Do you see yourself in the career or to an adjacent one in the future? Does it have the potential for expanding into areas that you also find interesting?
I’ve seen too many of my students and clients burned with people and their opinions on Reddit and Fishbowl. I have nothing against these platforms and in fact, many of you may have found me through Fishbowl. But if you are starting your research, it is often counterproductive to do it on anonymous forums. Because your career fit lies within you, not outside with strangers on the internet. And people who are not experts are providing career advice, might actually make you pass on a really good opportunity, even when they are well meaning, simply because they don’t know any better.
Instead, you are better off working with a career coach or actually researching on Google.
Once, you have a fair idea of the job role, you can ask questions on platforms like Reddit or Fishbowl where people with those job types exist. LinkedIn is also an excellent place where you can find diversified people with diverse opinions. This will give you a broad and nuanced perspective of the path you are about to embark on.
What is career fit?
Your career journey is a series of stepping stones so that you grow over time both professionally and personally. So it is critical to know what is good for you and which careers to avoid. Which one fits you overall, and which one is a no-no for your personality. Here are some factors I suggest my students and clients to consider:
Too many early career folks forget to consider the lifestyle they want when choosing a career. And too many mid-career folks get lured by money and end up trading off their lifestyle for an average career. I find a lot of my readers who are former management consultants, got lured into consulting due to the lifestyle it offers, i.e. travel Monday-Thursday. But sometimes that’s not a lifestyle people want to live in the long run, especially as your responsibilities grow, or frankly, as you get tired of doing the Monday-Thursday grind in some random remote place in the middle of nowhere and where even restaurants are a luxury. (As you perhaps guessed, I have been on one too many trips like these!!)
Lifestyle goes beyond time and lifestyle trade offs and also considers your tastes, habits, and cultural preferences. So, if your career doesn’t align with your habits or preferences, you might be making a career limiting move. Consider what you could do to find the work environment that integrates what you want from your life and work, into one holy alliance.
For instance, if you think you are more productive when working alone or in quiet peaceful environments, careers that have options of working remotely will be a quite good match. Likewise, if you want to prioritize your family, find careers that offer more flexibility in time and location. And if you are obsessed with working with diverse teams like me, seek out employers who value this as much really, and not just as lip service.
Spoiler alert, I am about to go into rant mode!
Honestly, it bewilders me as to why career coaches don’t talk more about money and career. I mean, “I want to work for free” said NO. ONE. EVER. And with my Economist hat on, I don’t even want to talk about careers if they won’t make me money! Doing a job means you are adding value to the world and you need to be compensated for it. Yes, even when you love it more than a good chocolate cake!!! (But if you love your job more than chocolate cake, I mean, really… who are you?!)
Anyhow, let’s stop pretending that money is this passing thought and a side effect of doing excellent work, shall we?
Now that we have agreed, what’s the next step?
Seek out careers that help you get to the financials that you want and then a bit more.
Find careers that pay handsomely at the beginning and also has potential to pay more as you grow and learn through the years. And even when you think some careers are dead-end, find the scope for innovation in there and ways to add value that will come back to you as increased pay from the employer. Consider this- the value of a McDonald's meal is much higher to the hungry than to the millionaire… Similarly, the value of an excel short cut is much more valuable to a not-so-tech company than Amazon or Google.
Living through a pandemic and becoming a parent changed my entire view of what I want from my life and career. And as any new parent would perhaps relate, my priorities changed completely. For the first time ever, my time was more valuable than money… and when I mean money, I don’t mean £5k… I mean £25k, £50k… I’ve said no to interview for jobs that pretty much were ready to offer me £100k more a year.
Of course, you don’t have to be a weirdo like me, but understanding the flexibility you are after and the trade offs you are ready to make to achieve that, is considered sometimes as a passing thought if that, while finding a dream career.
When a job is flexible, when deadlines are workable, when you can decide your working hours, and when you are your own boss- productivity tends to rise. In a flexible environment, both the employer and employees are likely to build a healthy professional relationship which helps in a sustainable workplace. But here’s a thing to understand.
Also, let me remind you, flexibility works both ways- sometimes employees too, have to be flexible and stay overtime or help their colleagues. On the other hand, employers need to set flexible schedules and break the traditional 9 to 5 timings. If this sounds like you, that’s probably what you are after. But how much that’s worth to you, only you can decide!
When I look at career advice across the internet, I rarely find people consider what their values are as a human being. For example, one of my values are that I don’t want my time to be spent on making money for companies that make money providing betting and gambling services. I consider diversity as an important element when choosing my employer.
Now, of course this is me and doesn’t need to be you. But all of us have something that we care about and value that we wish our employer was aligned well with. Why? Because the job then feels a little more impactful. And if you want to take this one step further, consider jobs that actually align to your core values. For example, one of my clients really believes in the fact that fashion helps people be more confident and therefore works in the fashion industry.
Skills and strengths
Equally important to consider are skills and strengths. I make my students take a strengths test to make sure they are aware of what they are innately good at and once folks do that, they come back to me with a jaw dropping… “Sudeshna, this is so accurate, and I had no idea!!”
That is the beauty of finding your strengths and then combining them with things you are skilled at, to become the small market in the specific knowledge market as we spoke about earlier.
How do you identify your career fit?
There are many careers and opportunities out there, but identifying what fits you right is a bit of a science and art. It takes time to know what fits you and what does not. Whether you are starting out or switching careers from another, you want to introspect first.
Start with what you want and then figure out how to get there, rather than being a part of a race where no one is quite sure about what they are running for. As cliched as it sounds, if I had one advice I wanted to offer, it would be- no one knows you better than you. No career coach can ever offer to tell you what is the ideal career for you, and if they do, you probably want to be running in the other direction. Sure they can offer suggestions and tools for you to explore the unexplored career paths, but they don’t know what you want. Even you partner, your cat, or your plant friends don’t know what you want. Only you do. So, have a think about what I suggested doing in the previous section and get really specific:
What are your lifestyle goals? Do you want to be an independent contributor? Do you want to travel? Are you a night owl?
How much money do you want to and need to earn? Get specific on those numbers. This is really critical and I spend a whole module doing this with my students.
What sort of trade-offs do you want to be making? What does flexibility mean to you?
What are your values that you want to stand by while choosing a profession? Is a diverse workplace important? Is the cause the employer serves attractive?
And finally think of skills and strengths- both technical and soft skills.
If you are still wondering, I highly recommend taking our Career Quiz that has helped professionals get their head in the right direction.
Once you are clear on what you want from your career, follow the 5-step framework to find your dream job
How do you identify your dream job?
So now that you are clear about what you want, the next steps should be easy. How do you actually find a job you love in 2-3 months?
Step 1: Make a list of your non-negotiables
You can start with cataloging what you like and dislike in a job. List down your non-negotiables, and you can only do so if you know yourself well- self-awareness is a thing! But if you still find it hard, think about all of the things that you detest in your current work situation. That is a massive clue into what are non-negotiables are. For example, if flexibility is a non-negotiable for you, you perhaps don’t want to apply to a job requiring you to travel 80% of the time.
Think about your long-term goals and expectations. What do you want out of this job apart from financial compensation? Do you want a progressive job where you never stop learning? Or is it an independent contributor role that is the introvert’s paradise?
Finally remember, knowing what you want is just the first step. You have to really be aggressive in respecting them enough to not negotiate on them.
Step 2: Set up informational interviews
Once you have a long list of potential jobs, your search doesn’t end there. In fact, now starts what is the fun part to me! Dig information about these jobs and companies.
Setting up informational interviews is th