“To thine own self be true.” That’s Shakespeare, giving career advice through Polonius’ last words to his son Laertes in “Hamlet.” The words still stand up today. Developing a deep understanding of what makes you, well, you — is the first step in finding the perfect job.
After all, if you work 40 hours a week, from the age of 20-65 (discounting two weeks of vacation every year), you’ll work a total of 90,360 hours over your lifetime. It’s worth the investment to get the right fit.
There are three primary factors that can affect how you work and what makes you happy. One of the most basic is your personality — for instance, whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert. Extroverts tend to be more social, more outgoing and more energized by interactions with people. Introverts tend to be more reserved, more inwardly focused, and prefer to work alone or in small groups.
Getting this right is essential to your satisfaction at work. A strong introvert thrown into customer service or sales might be miserable. A strong extrovert stuck in a cubicle all day interacting with spreadsheets instead of customers will also be miserable.
Ask about the working environment and team dynamics during your job interview, and don’t shy away from disclosing if you have a strong preference for working alone or in teams.
Being placed in a role that’s wrong for you will sap your energy every day, and you’ll be at risk for early burnout.
Your work values are the beliefs you hold about what matters most. If your work or your company’s mission do not align with your values, it will be hardfor you to stay motivated. What do you hope to achieve through your work? Help people? Save lives? Make the world a better place? Help children feel safe?
Your values don’t all have to be about saving the world; you can love your work because you’re solving complex problems, bringing order to chaos or making beautiful things. Or, for that matter, making things more beautiful.
It’s worth the time to explore your values and what, beyond a paycheck, keeps you coming to work every day. There are some online tools that will help you identify your most important values (try the one at vawizard.org) and get recommendations about jobs that would be the best fit.
One of my highest values is autonomy — having control over what I do and how I do it. That factor will be critical to whether I fit into a role. Better I find out in advance if I’ll be working for a micromanager; I’ll feel free to decline — and never look back.
The third key to loving your work is interests. You’ve got to be excited about the actual work you do; if you’re bored, you’ll almost never have a chance at being a top performer. The gold standard of interest inventories is the Holland Self-Directed Search, and most career development sites use some version of it to determine career interests.
You can find a free interest inventory at mynextmove.org. Answer questions about what you like doing, and the tool will make career suggestions based on your answers.
I’ve spoken to many job seekers who felt they had to change their personalities to get or keep a job. They suppressed who they were or tried to become what they thought their managers wanted. Inevitably, they wound up unhappy, burnt out and sometimes, even sick.
You shouldn’t have to choose between money and work you love, but if you do, choose work you love. I’ve met many happy people in low-paying jobs, but I’ve never met anyone who was glad they took a high paying job doing work they hated.
Candace Moody is vice president of communications for CareerSource Northeast Florida. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.