Friday, October 15, 2010

Identifying Your Ideal Job

This is from my colleague Steve Piazzale:

My ideal job description? It's hard enough finding any job let alone an ideal one!

Yes, yes that's true but since you're looking for a change anyway, isn't it better to start from a position of knowing what you do best?

It's vital to know what work brings out the best in you--that is jobs where you both enjoy the work and are productive for your employer. Once you understand this, you'll know what you're looking for and will be more likely to recognize it when you see it.

So how do we go about doing this?

1. List the characteristics of your ideal work.

Without necessarily listing a job title, start writing work qualifications, duties, and environment that resonate with you. Maybe you'd start with:
  • I spend 25% of my time traveling.
  • I get to use my financial and analytical skills on a regular basis.
  • I have a manager who provides direction, but doesn't micromanage me.
  • I work with a small collaborative team.
Maybe by looking at various job descriptions on job boards, you can find other entries:
  • I interface with end users (or the general public) 10% of each day.
  • My commute is under 30 minutes and I work from home once a week
  • I'm in a minimal number of meetings.
  • I believe in the mission of the company.
Thinking about past work you've had, try to recall the situations where you were the most productive and time flew by:

  • I own my own project but contribute on others.
  • Promotion is a possibility.
  • Management encourages career growth
  • I can earn $100K within 3 years.
2) Rank order the ideal job characteristics.

Ok, so now you have a dozen or so aspects of work that would be ideal in that you'd be both interested in the work and productive. Now put them in order of importance. And after finishing that, draw a line between the entries that MUST be in your future work and those that would be nice to have.

Now, let's take a moment to explain these "must" haves. If you don't know where your next meal is coming from then you take whatever job you can. But if one of the must haves is missing, you know that from the get-go, you're going to keep looking for a better job. A must have is just that--an aspect of work without which you wont be happy and/or will not be maximally productive.

3) How to use the ideal job description

By identifying your ideal work environment, you can compare any job you're applying for or networking about to this ideal. You know what questions you need answered for the job to be a "go" for you. You can even tailor your personal brand (elevator pitch, resume profile, success stories) to match this ideal vision.

Potential employers whose vision of your role doesn't match yours can back away from you without losing face. Instead of having to say "we micromanage here and don't allow our managers much freedom," they only have to say "I don't think we have a good match here" and they back away from you, but if that freedom is a non-negotiable for you, you want them to back away.

On the other hand, if they like the role and vision you describe, they will be attracted to you. Then there is a win-win scenario—you’re happy and they get the best effort and value you can produce.

Now we all know that there's no perfect job any more than there's a perfect person. But the question to ask yourself is "how far off my ideal is the potential position I’m considering and can I live with the aspects that aren't ideal; are there any show stoppers?"

As I mentioned before, do not use this strategy if you're desperate for work and want the job at all costs. But in situations in which you have some latitude, this strategy maximizes the likelihood that you'll find work that makes you come alive and you deserve that!


Shawn said...

Marty, I appreaciate your blog and have anquired a lot of useful information. I have a question for you, and because I do not know where to put it, I will put it here.

I am 28. My mom recently died of pancreatic cancer. I inherited a middle class home in the Midwest. It is worth ~$244,000 and is paid off. I could rent it out for $1,600-2000 a month.

I m currently working on an MBA but once I am finished I am seriously considering not reentering the workforce.

There is what society and my family expects: job, family, and kids. Bluntly, I would like to have children but for no other reason than to carry on my genes (however I would be in their life and take care of them if they were brought into the world).

I really don't need a whole lot of money to be happy, I just want my time, a girlfriend, a car, and the opportunity to travel the world. So, I am considering renting out my home with the intention of living off the investment income. I would be poor in the US, but I am considering moving to Thailand, Argentina, Eastern Europe, or other developing area where there is good US dollar arbitrage (I would try to travel the world too) (the avg GDP in said countries is about $6-14k US, so I would be upper-middle class).

A less extreme option I am considering is that of a mini-retirement. I would travel for a couple years, and then see if I can handle mind-numbing work. I think it would be more fun to take retirement years now, and a younger guy, than later, as an old man.

So as you can see, I am having trouble with the classic dilemma of money versus time--a good problem to have, since most people do not get to seriously consider the money option until they are in their 50s. I am not sure what direction to choose. More if it comes down to guilt since I know my mom would want me to be working.

What do you think?

Marty Nemko said...

You've got the travel bug and since you seem to have no ties, itch that scratch but why not use the trip as an opportunity to gain skills, experiences that might prepare for you a NON-mind-numbing career upon return?

Shawn said...

Good idea. I think I will run with it. I would like to find that fun job that is lucrative. Your blog has helped.