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How to Build Your Way Toward a Career You’ll Love

May 10, 2018 3 min read Matt Hussey

Key Takeaways

  • You already work hard – make sure you do it for a company you admire and believe in.
  • Think about what you really love to do, then figure out where you’d want to do it.
  • Mastering job skills is similar to being an athlete or a musician - practice makes perfect.

 

When your peers ask what you do for a living, you likely desire a reaction that esteemed professions, like journalists, lawyers, doctors or firemen tend to receive. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, as those jobs more on the ordinary side can attest.

 

 

With that in mind, it’s important to make sure that you wake up every day looking forward to heading to work and doing your job, especially since Americans take fewer holidays, and retire later than almost anyone else in the industrialized world. For this reason, employee burnout has become a huge problem for both employers and employees.

It may seem difficult to carve out a satisfying career in a dynamic landscape, but there are certainly ways of finding satisfaction in your job, no matter what industry you work in. Here are some tips to help you recalibrate your career.


Figure out what you like to do, then find a place that needs people like you


In 1970, Richard Bolles, an Episcopal priest from San Francisco, wrote a 168-page guide to career changes after witnessing a high dropout rate in the church.

He handed his work out to priests across America — which subsequently became a book called What Color Is Your Parachute? It went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide, and be inducted into the Library of Congress as one of “25 Books that Have Shaped Readers' Lives.

“You want to look for your passions (what you'd most love to do), rather than just your competencies (what you can do),” explained Bolles on his website.

“In deciding what you want to do with your life, or what you want to do next with your life, there are only three questions to ask yourself: WHAT, WHERE, and HOW:”

1. What do you most love to do?
2. Where would you most love to do it?
3. How do you identify and find such jobs?

By heading out into the world with a full knowledge of what you love to do, you’re already at an advantage that others in your profession may not possess.

Furthermore, aiming for something that is clearly defined means that finding a job that meets half of your goals puts you halfway towards your dream job, which is a lot further down the road from where you started.  

 

Change the story you tell


Everyone loves to tell a story, but how do we tell our own story to others? What are the details of our lives that indicate who we are or where we’ve been? That concept is something Bolles describes as the "overarching story."

“We choose this overarching story to make sense out of all the little stories — to deal not with the 'what,' but with the 'why." Why we think 'all this' has happened to us.”

That overarching story can be split into two categories: passive or active.

Active stories, according to Bolles, involve portraying ourselves as in charge of our lives, and are by and large responsible for the path our lives are currently following.

Passive stories, on the other hand, are when we feel we are the recipient of other people's actions or events, out of our control.

“Which of these two basic categories we choose — to explain our life — is of great consequence, because which we choose determines whether our life is ever going to change or not,” explains Bolles.  

 

Adopt a craftsman’s mentality


In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, author Cal Newport spends a good deal of time talking about the “craftsman’s mindset.”

"People need to train their skills like an athlete, musician, or chess player would," he says.

"If you study how people end up passionate about their work, the most common answer is that their passion developed over time, after they built up skills that are rare and valuable."

The better you become at something, the more lucrative that skill becomes.

From there, learning to master what you do gives you leverage over your career and employer, which then results in the ability to steer your career in the direction of your choosing.

For example, look at the field of journalism. There are certain aspects of creative writing that have become more lucrative over time, such as the ability to write well-crafted tweets or social media posts. Other areas include creating a brand’s identity or developing an editorial strategy for an entire business. After a year of practice, a journalist could become an expert in one of these fields, which provides more options when it comes to career navigation.

 

What you can do next

Ask yourself: What are your skills, and what do you genuinely enjoy doing? Do you want to make a difference, whether it’s in your local community or the world? Are you someone who needs to connect with people? Or do you prefer the independence of being able to work alone? Each of us will be driven more by different motivators — finding out what encourages us to leap out of bed each day can be the first step toward a fulfilling career.

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