How to Find a Job That Makes You Feel Alive
How can you find a career that ignites your passion? Now that’s a million dollar (or more) question. It seems that so many of us are searching for that elusive career that embodies Confucius’ quote to “find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Certainly within the confidentiality of coaching, it’s common to hear even highly successful people express an inner search to find work that’s more fulfilling — and a nagging feeling that they went into the wrong career altogether.
How can a CEO with a plush lifestyle complain about feeling dissatisfied when an underpaid barista is positively glowing? Is it the person or the job?
Or is it better to expect less from work and compartmentalize, so you can focus on enjoying a broader life?
We may believe it’s reasonable to bear on and be grateful for having a stable job, and then we meet someone who loves what they do so much that you can literally see it emanating from them. I have a family member who, near the end of his career, has clearly found his dream job. This is after thirty years in a job that, at least to those of us who know him, went strongly against his personality type. He found his way there partially on purpose — he turned a hobby into a career — and partially by accident (downsizing). Regardless, these days he’s relaxed, fulfilled, and happier than I’ve ever seen him.
In my work with clients, it’s sometimes hard to see this unsettled yearning for a fulfilling career and know how to help. No one knows what will actually make someone else happy — and we’re not too good at guessing for ourselves. So much of life is experiential — we simply don’t know until we try it on.
I recently read How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen, and I thought he had an interesting take on it. Christensen cites research by motivation researcher Frederick Herzberg and posits that a big reason we’re unhappy in our work is that we have a fundamental misunderstanding about what motivates us. He breaks down motivation into two categories:
- Hygiene Factors: These are the day-in, day-out considerations of the job, and what the job provides for us. These include, “status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices.”
- Motivating Factors: These are the factors that make us love our jobs, and include, “challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.”
Christensen argues that while we spend an inordinate amount of time weighing hygiene factors, they only keep us from being dissatisfied — but they don’t make us happy in our work. Only motivating factors can make us wake up excited to head to the office, and in fact, when present we often feel that we’re not doing work at all.
To be truly fulfilled at work, both hygiene factors and motivating factors need to be present. We substitute one for the other and end up frustrated, most commonly by an overreliance on hygiene factors, i.e. a partner in a law firm who dislikes her work.
This model can be a guide for finding fulfilling work, and diagnosing what’s missing in your current career.
Are you expecting hygiene factors to make you happy? Or, conversely, are key hygiene factors missing?
If you’re not motivated, what would challenge you and make you grow?
I personally believe that playing to our core personality types and strengths matters. We may try out new work identities in our careers, but the people I know who love their jobs what they do best every day. And that feels a whole lot more like fun than work.
Are you passionate about your job? Comment here or @kristihedges.
Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. Find her at kristihedges.com and @kristihedges.
This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.
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