What makes a good career? Is it a high salary? Is it an opportunity to follow a passion? Or is it something even more basic than that?
All of us know people who landed fantastic jobs – jobs with high salaries and prestige, or dream jobs in creative fields – who, within a few years, burned out and became unhappy. Although these are the kinds of careers that people say they want, they aren’t necessarily the kinds of jobs that lead to career happiness.
If you want to be happy in your career, you have to identify your real desires, not just the ordinary yearning for a job that comes with a big paycheck or a high-status title. How do you do that? You do some soul-searching and find out what is really important to you. Then, you build a career around your true desires, instead of trying to force your dreams into a career.
Describe Your Ideal Day
Take some time to write out two scenarios: the first is your ideal day right now, and the second is your ideal day five years from now.
In these scenarios, don’t write about a specific job. Instead, write about the actions you take during the day. If you don’t like attending meetings, write about a job where you arrive early and spend your morning in your office researching a new product. If you love being around people, write about interacting with people and helping them plan things.
Make sure you include how you spend your mornings and evenings. Do you walk to work? Exercise after work? Spend the night watching television, playing basketball with friends, or going to concerts?
Notice how your five year ideal day differs from your current ideal day. Five years out, do you have a partner? Kids? A house? A dog? How does that change your ideal day? Are you spending more time at home, or are you spending even more hours at work as you create a fantastic new project?
Discover Your Top Five Desires
After writing your ideal day scenarios, use them to identify your top five desires. Maybe you want a short commute, or you want a job that doesn’t require you to wake up early in the morning. Maybe you want a job where you can be available to pick up kids from school, or a job that is only a few blocks from your home. Maybe you want a job where you spend all day talking to people, or a job where you spend very little time talking to people!
Make a list, then cut the list down to your top 5 desires: the most important things you want in a career and in life.
Analyze Your Finances
Like it or not, your finances often determine the types of jobs you need to get. Student loan debts and credit card debt all require you to get a job with a certain salary in order to make the necessary payments. Cities with high costs of living require you to take jobs you may not want in order to pay for rent, car insurance, and other basic needs.
If you haven’t already made a monthly budget, take an afternoon to calculate all of your monthly expenses. Include the big items like rent, car payments, car insurance, and credit card payments, as well as smaller expenses like movie tickets and restaurants. If you aren’t sure where your money goes every month, your bank keeps a record of past purchases for you to review.
Use your monthly budget to determine the amount of money you need to make after taxes. Multiply that number by 12 and add 20% to estimate the yearly salary you need to earn to make that budget work. Then, use the Bureau of Labor Statistics tables to find jobs paying those salaries. Look for jobs that fulfill your top 5 desires while giving you enough money every month to fulfill your obligations.
Also: if your finances are always a little tight, consider offloading your debt onto low interest credit cards. A simple move like this helps you reduce your monthly salary requirement, enabling you to take jobs you might not be able to take otherwise.
Interview Companies To See If They Fit Your Desires
Approach your job search as if you were interviewing the companies. Yes, you want to tell them why you’re the best person for the job, but you also want to make sure their job is going to fulfill your top five desires. If the job and your desires don’t match, you’re going to be unhappy in your career.
Throughout the process, remember: A career, by itself, is not success. Instead, happiness is success.
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