Confused about your career? Here's what to do....

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“The desire for fulfilling work – a job that provides a deep sense of purpose, and reflects our values, passions and personality – is a modern invention.”

With so many choices.

In his book How to Find Fulfilling Work, Roman Krznaric shares powerful ideas on how to maneuver your way through the labyrinth of thinking about work.

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We have entered a new age, Krznaric says, one where “the great dream is to tradeup from money to meaning.”

He tells the story of 3 individuals whose experiences are a sign of the times. A plague of workplace dissatisfaction. And an outbreak of uncertainty about how to choose a career.  In looking at the dilemma Krznaric asks 2 questions:

  1. What are the core elements of a fulfilling career?
  2. How do we go about changing our career and making the best possible decisions along the way?

In thinking about the tyranny of options, he says that we are so worried about making a bad choice that we make none at all. To narrow the choices, he suggests thinking more deeply about the core elements of a fulfilling career. And then develop ways to test them out.

He identifies 3 essential ingredients to a fulfilling career: meaning, flow and freedom. When considering meaning, he proposes that there are 5 motivating forces that make a job meaningful:

  • earning money,
  • achieving status,
  • making a difference,
  • following our passions and
  • using our talents. 

Which is most important? There is no simple answer.

Regarding satisfaction at work, he shows a study of ethical work where he uses the term doing “good work.” The definition is doing “quality work that benefits the broader society.” Those doing good work experienced much higher levels of job satisfaction.

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After Krznaric guides us through the 5 motivating factors, he has 3 activities to help brainstorm careers.

The Map of Choices

The first is called The Map of Choices, a picture compilation of all of the work you have done so far and what shaped the path. He asks several questions from the exercise, including what 2 motivations do you want to shape your career.

Imaginary Lives

The second activity he calls Imaginary Lives, he encourages us to imagine 5 parallel universes where we have a whole year to pursue 5 different jobs. This is the playful and expansive part of the consideration.

Personal Job Advertisement

The last activity is creating a Personal Job Advertisement, where you write down who you are and what you care about and anything else important to you. Once it is complete, he suggests you send it to 10 people who you know and ask them from the information what they would see you doing in a career.

photo: @colourliving

photo: @colourliving

In taking all of this information out into the real world, Krznaric has a section in his book called Act First, Reflect Later. Since we don’t know what will really work for us, he talks about doing experiential learning.

Bring it all to life!

An idea he shares is taking a ‘radical sabbatical,’ or a ‘job holiday’ trying out a new career. He also talks about conversational research, talking to people who are doing the work. The third way to test out careers he calls a branching project, a temporary assignment by taking a course, doing evening work or volunteering or job shadowing. 

Through doing experimental projects, we are more likely to find what really works for us.  The idea is to find work that gives us flow.

“Where can you discover the secret list of flow-careers?”

In exploring the question of finding your vocation, Krznaric says “There is a widespread – and mistaken – assumption that a vocation usually comes to people in a flash of enlightenment or moment of epiphany…. vocations are grown, and grown into, rather than found.” 

How to Find Fulfilling Work has some compelling ideas, entertaining catch phrases and is both practical and inspirational in trying to move out of the confusion about what to do when you are in the midst of career confusion. 

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