When it comes to careers, it’s hard not to ignore phrases such as “do what you love” or “follow your passion.” While those sayings are well intended and provide great aspirations, if you’re embarking on your job search journey I encourage you to also consider another question that is equally important: “Where are you going to do your best work?”
Answering this question honestly and truthfully will generate insight into what makes you tick and how you produce high quality work. If you can determine the conditions that will enable you to do great work, you can use that information figure out the type of job and type of company that will be a good fit for your next role.
I don’t mean to belittle or underscore passion. Passion can still be important, as can finding a job you like or that uses your strengths. After all most people who like there job will probably be more motivated to do it each day, and research suggests that those that use their strengths everyday report higher levels of engagement, so having an eager interest in your next job is still an important factor. But figuring out where you are going to do your best work is going to help you find a job where you’ll have the best chance to succeed. And if that goes well, you’ll have plenty of chances and opportunities to punch your own ticket to finding something you’re passionate about.
The other reason you should consider where you do your best work is one of career longevity. Assuming that your next job is not going to be your last one, you’re going to have to change roles eventually, so trying to optimize for the “perfect job” is admirable but perhaps futile if you know that you’re eventually going to have to find another one down the road.
Instead, if you can find an opportunity that enables you to do your best work, you’ll set yourself up to succeed on projects and tasks that are interesting and enjoyable. It may not be your passion, but odds are, it will be engaging and meaningful work. And when you can perform at a high level and do your best work, you’ll probably also open doors for future jobs and career opportunities.
So how do you figure out where you are going to do your best work? Here are some tactical steps to find the answer to this question:
1.Start with past experience
Figure out in your career where you performed the best and were most engaged in your work. Identify the jobs, specific projects, tasks and deliverables where you were able to do your best and write them down. Dig deeper by determining the what and why behind how you did your best work.
2.Figure out your Superpower
All of us have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to understand your own. There are tests out there (ex: Strenghsfinder, Business Chemistry, MBTI) that help identify and pinpoint strengths as well as types of roles or assignments that pair best with a specific strength, but in the absence of that, look at your work experience and identify what people turned to you for advice on, or types of projects that people asked you to help with because of your expertise. And lastly, check your last performance review and see what your manager believes are your strengths.
3.Identify what matters
All of us have priorities, and using those priorities to help in our job search can help is identify and zero in on what jobs to select versus which ones to pass on. For some of us, work-life balance is important. For others, it’s the perks, and for others, it’s meaningful work, or collaborative colleagues. The key is to identifying and prioritizing the things that are important to you. When you begin searching for job postings, you can use these criteria to identify the right roles, and eventually select your next job.
I’m sure most of us have at least one friend who is very passionate about their job and believes they are doing exactly what they want to do. But while most of us know of those people who seem to be in the job they absolutely love and couldn’t imagine doing anything else, that’s most likely not true for the majority of us. So for the rest of us, when it comes to finding that next role, consider identifying where you are going to do your best work, and finding a company and role that enables just that. And if you do that, I’m confident you’ll find something you’re passionate about soon enough.