I never thought I would write this.
I never thought I would find the career for me, if you know me at all, you will know that I am probably the least likely person to find something they genuinely enjoy doing.
I change my mind a lot. My mood very much depends on how much I like something. I watch one programme and want to change my entire career.
But for a while now this dawning realisation has slowly hit me. Maybe, just maybe, I really like this job.
As a millennial, it’s no small feat to find a job you enjoy. Most of you will have watched that Simon Sinek talk. You know the drill. Lack of patience + a misunderstanding of how long it takes = millennials leaving their jobs wildly unhappy left, right and centre.
Lack of patience + a misunderstanding of how long it takes = Millennials leaving their jobs
It’s a real issue.
In a world where you order something at 10 am and it’s delivered by 4 pm, it’s hard to understand how job happiness can take any longer than a week. Surely in a week, you will be able to find a job you like, a company that gets you and start ‘adding value’ right?
Wrong. Most people hate their jobs. In a Gallup survey, it was found that 85% were unsatisfied with their job. Imagine that being the baseline.
In today’s world it’s normal that people just don’t like what they do with the majority of their waking hours. It’s a kick in the teeth when you enter the job market, as an ambitious and excitable recent grad.
So what happened with me?
I’ve had loads of jobs. Glass collector in a nightclub (loved it by the way), dog walker (loved that even more), KFC worker (I got rejected from McDonald's), waitress, coach, volunteer, lifeguard, team leader. Over the course of my schooling life, I’d had more jobs than I’ve got fingers on my hands.
When I graduated University though, work became much more important. My jobs in the past were always a means to an end, my main gig was studying hard and getting my degree. However, as soon as University finished, as soon as you throw your hat (I didn’t go to graduated but that’s a different story), at that moment your job becomes the thing you are doing. Not your degree. Your degree is now the thing you’ve done.
When the job becomes the main focus a few things happen. First of all, you give it more attention. Of course, you do, you’re doing it more of the time. And because that happens, you get more analytical. You start to observe yourself and you within your job.
At the start it’s fun, smiles and laughs — you’re just happy to have a job and a paycheque. But then somewhere down the line, something odd happens. Something that kind of throws you. That something is the realisation is that you could be doing this for a long while to come. You've got no stepping stones laid out in front of you, when you start work it’s your job to find said stepping stones and get laying.
That’s a problem if you don’t know what direction you don’t want to go.
When the real frustration came
After a few jobs, you get frustrated, it’s maybe a year out of University and you’re still not sure what you want to do. But you don’t give up yet. Maybe the next one you’ll like. The next one comes round and you don’t like that so you’re thinking okay — maybe the next one. By the 7th you start losing hope. It becomes frustrating. You start looking at job roles and you think to yourself:
“There is nothing out there for me.”
“I’m destined to do nothing productive with my life.”
“What’s the point in trying?”
This is the worst place to be. It’s by far the hardest. In this mindset, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For me this hit about 1.5 years ago. I was fed up. I’d tried numerous roles, none of them the right role. I was frustrated with myself. Why couldn’t I just like something?
Over the course of the first 3 years at work, I struggled immensely. At the start of anything, it’s a slow burn but at the end of the 3 years, I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me.
However, with the light firmly at the end of the tunnel, as I’m now in a job I actually enjoy, I can tell you that there are a few pitfalls that I fell into, which prolonged the process of finding the job for me.
- Caring what people thought of the title I had
- Thinking I had no time to figure it out
- Thinking that I would never figure it out, even if I had all the time in the world
- Allowing myself to worry about work until I’d had a good nights sleep, a decent meal and some water
It’s hard to get comfortable with the unknown, at University we had a clear path laid of for us that made total sense. We knew what was expected and if we did that, well then we would get to where we want to go.
You need to get comfortable with not knowing.
With work it’s a little different, you need to get comfortable with not knowing where you are going and stay close to what brings you joy. If you’re looking for a career you love, you need to start with what makes you curious.
How to get started?
1. Be curious and follow where your attention
I’m not talking about spending every waking hour on Instagram, it’s more about understanding what takes your interest, even if it is on Instagram. What are you finding yourself drawn to time and time again? Where do you accidentally spend a lot of your time? Start there. Start exploring.
How do you explore?
- Ask questions, ask as many as you can
- Talk to as many people as possible about that career
- Write down all the things you find interesting in life
- Hit google, can you find any good source on your chosen field
- Think about everything you want in the next 10 years
- Think about what you liked at school
- Think about you dream day, what would it involve?
- Ask your friends and family what they see you doing
In the early days you can explore as much as you like, as long as you’ve got food in your belly and a roof over your head, explore away.
2. Don’t look up for 5 Years
Looking at what everyone else is doing isn’t going to help you figure out what you want to do. So what if someone you went to school with is now making 7 figures, that’s not going help you move forward.
Concentrate on yourself, look at where your feet are going and don’t look up until you are fairly happy with the direction you are going in.
3. Be hard on your process and easy on yourself
Most people don’t enjoy what they do. That means you’ve got to work hard to find something you do like because most people, the vast majority, end up doing something they don’t. So you need to create a process to get you there. Whether that’s asking yourself questions, journalling what do you and don’t like, striving to understand yourself, whatever it may be, you need to be hard on that. By hard I mean don’t compromise.
If your process is, every Friday gets to the end of the week and evaluate what you like and don’t like. But then it gets to Friday and all you want to do is go and get drunk, you’re not being hard on your process. I’m not saying don’t go have fun, I’m just saying stick to your process first.
But don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t beat yourself if you’ve had a bad day if you didn’t do well today and you find yourself being negative. We all have bad days that’s fine.
Hard on the process, easy on yourself.
4. Understand how long it takes and how long you’ve got
If you’ve just started work you are likely to have been bought up in the Instagram, YouTube, Amazon world where you can have anything you want in an instant. That means you are likely to be surprised when you can’t download an app to increase your work satisfaction. Work satisfaction can’t be solved with an application — at least not yet.
You need to give yourself time to understand who you are, what you want, what makes you happy, what you are good at etc.
But the great thing is, being new to work means you’ve got nothing but time ahead of you.
5. You got to spend a ridiculous amount of time testing
There a huge amount of careers to pick from. Figuring out where to start is hard, figuring out where to go next is harder. You need to spend a lot of time putting your toes in the water and seeing how it feels.
You might not like some jobs. That’s cool.
You might think some are okay but not the best.
You might fall in love with one.
It takes time, context and thought to understand which job is the right one for you. You probably won’t find it at the right time, you need to experiment and see which one yields the best results.
Once You’ve Found It
I am the last person I thought would find something they genuinely enjoy doing. I thought that I would never find the right job for me. I thought I would never ever find it and I was destined to be unhappy and sad forever.
Turns out you can find it, you just need patience, persistence, a pinch of resilience and a good bit of time.
Once you find something you love, there’s perhaps no better feeling.