Part 2. Finding Your Dream Job
Last week I talked about the formula for job happiness as well as the 7 Signs you should quit your job. To briefly recap Madmorks’ Happiness formula, it’s:
If you’re formula has been out of whack for some time (12-18 months or longer) and you’ve seen some of the “signs” I mentioned in my last post, it's probably time to move on.
So the million dollar question is: “How do I find something better?”
Finding the right job is a 3-step process in my experience. Here's how you start:
Know yourself. Understand what you’re good at, what you want and the type of role, industry and work that’s going to make your Happiness Formula more positive than negative.
Do your homework. Read about the role / industry you’re considering, go to events / conferences and understand the issues the industry is facing and where / how your skill set and background might apply.
Network. Talk to people in industry. Reach out and connect with them on Linkedin. Go on Quora and ask them questions. Join communities on Linkedin, Facebook, or Meetup and try to participate on some of the discussions taking place in the industry.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Step 1. Know yourself
I talked quite a bit about this step in my post on Happiness (which you can refer back to here) but in essence here are some of the steps that led me to the conclusion that my Chief Marketing Officer days were over and that I needed to find something more attuned to where I am in my life and what I want to achieve.
Understand your core values: When we're in sync with our values we're much happier at work. The opposite is also true. When we work in companies, jobs or industries where we allow our values to be trampled on, we loose motivation and energy.
One way to understand your values is to run exercises such as "Imagine a time when you were really angry at work. What happened? Why were you so angry? What values did you feel were violated?"
Personality tests: I went through a number of personality tests online. These are pretty straightforward and they range from the simple and free Myers Briggs-like tests such as 16 Personalities to more detailed, scientific and rigorous paid tests like the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI for short).
Personality tests help you better understand yourself and can help you identify your core values (above) as well as your strengths (below) and weaknesses.
Identify your core strengths: To be happy at work partly involves doing things you’re good at. Ideally, these are things you enjoy doing but you should also constantly be looking to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Psychologically the more you do things that you do well (and people appreciate you for it) the more your confidence grows and the more you can push yourself to try new things. If you’d like to know more check out the Gallup Strengthfinder which is a great, short and quick read and also try the online tools to help you better assess and understand where your strengths are.
Ask your friends / colleagues: How many time have you heard “Wow, you’re actually pretty good at this. Have you ever thought of doing this full time?” Talk to those who know you best and ask them where they think your strengths and weaknesses are.
I actually sent an email to people who knew me and asked them to list 1-2 things they thought I did really well as well as 1-2 areas where I really needed improvement. Some of the answers were surprising. Try to strike a balance between people who know you well but who can also be somewhat objective too.
Consider coaching: This one may sound counter intuitive - particularly if you’re out of a job or recently out of school but a good coach can help open your eyes and provide the cold hard truth you’re friends or family won’t give you. More importantly, if you work with a coach they can develop a plan to help you stay on track and get into the industry you really want to get into.
I wrote a whole post on why coaching matters and what it’s done for me that you can refer to here. I still have a coach and it’s really helpful when I need a neutral pair of eyes on something I’m stuck on and can’t necessarily trust those close to me to be objective.
Take a Sabbatical or short trip: A friend of mine and founder of Hive, Ryan Allis, suggested this to me when I left Google. Take 3-5 days and go somewhere on a retreat where you’re disconnected from phones, laptops and social media. This can be a great way to get in tune with yourself, read and really think about what’s important to you.
At the very least you should be clear on certain questions like: “What are the top 3 things that are most important to me?” or “What would I do if money wasn’t an issue?” The folks at Living your Legend have a great questionnaire which can help get you started. Print it, go off someplace quiet and fill it out. You might be surprised by what you discover. If you have more time, take a long trip or a paid sabbatical from your work. That will give you even more time to not only do this step but the ones that follow below.
Step 2. Do your homework
In 2001 I lost my job as a strategy consultant. The tech market had just imploded and I, like many expensive consultants, was left without a job. I’d always had a fascination with video games though (I still ‘clash’) and was determined to get into the industry. So what did I do?
Attended Trade Events: One of the best ways to get to know an industry you’re interested in and meet key players is to go to the yearly trade shows they attend. In my case I flew to France and went to the Apple Developer Conference. I also attended E3 in Los Angeles.
In France I was able to meet the head of the Apple games team. He introduced me to a number of people and companies and gave me lots of valuable insights into some of the issues the industry faced and how a marketer like me could help.
When you attend a trade show not only do you hear keynote speeches and listen to industry leaders talk about key issues but occasionally you get to meet them in person. This can be priceless.
Research and learn: Every industry is covered extensively in the news, by research groups (IDC, Yankee Group, Gartner) and by trade press. If you’re really interested in knowing the issues and challenges an industry faces or the latest trends you should identify the publications / blogs that cover them.
For example, when I looked at VR a few years ago, I went to conferences, talked to VR entrepreneurs and investors, subscribed to blogs like Upload VR and tried all the consumer VR products on the market. Interestingly, I came to the conclusion that VR wasn’t right for me. I loved the tech but the market felt too early and I didn’t feel that marketing could have a big enough impact at the time. I had several potential offers but had I jumped in too early it might not have been the right fit for me. Think of your job like a marriage (without the sex); you wouldn’t marry someone without knowing them right? Do your homework.
Talk to people: For some this is easier than others but networking is key. If you really want to know what it’s like to work in a certain industry or what a job is like the best way to know that is simply to talk to those people.
As someone fairly new to executive coaching, I ‘interview’ 2-3 coaches every week to understand why they got into coaching, what they like about it, what they don’t, where they learn new things and what they would have done differently when they got into the industry.
Today there are even companies like Purple Squirrel that can help connect you to mentors in your target company so you can get a better idea of what it’s like to work there or you could try and get a mentor from your target industry through mentor platforms like Everwise, Betterup or Linkedin.
Step 3. Try Stuff
Most of us don't buy a car without trying it. Most of us don't marry someone without dating them (at least in western culture) right? Why shouldn't your job be any different?
Try and figure out what that job would be like before doing it. Thinking of opening a bar? How about spending 2-3 months working in a bar with a friend? Want to work in a startup, how about spending 3-6 months as a contractor for them first?
The more you're able to try things first, the more you can figure a) What the job is really about b) whether it aligns with your values and c) whether it works for you (financially and otherwise). If you're interested in more on this approach feel free to reach out to me or also check out the seminal book on the topic: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and David Evans.
Changing industries and /or jobs is hard. It scares the crap out of most of us and the reality is most people will never do it because they are either too scared, too comfortable or believe that for financial reasons it’s just not doable. And guess what? That’s just fine. That creates more opportunity for people like you who are reading this post and starting to think that ‘yes’, ‘I can actually do this.’
So what are you waiting for? You’ve got a ton of work to do!
Next week I’ll discuss how you can go about actually positioning and selling yourself to prospective employers and how to nail your interviews. For now though, if you liked this post be generous and give me a like, share or comment. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and if you’re more visually inclined or just love the sound of my voice you can check out my YouTube channel here.