The challenge of work, for all of us, is to find an occupation that engages our strongest drives, develops our talents, contributes value in both the workplace and the wider community, and satisfies our financial needs.
For the fortunate few, the question of finding the perfect job never arises — they find themselves drawn to a particular field of work early in life and happily work in the same field all their life. But for most of us the question does arise, either because we are seeking more satisfying work — a career rather than just a job that pays the bills — or because we reach a crossroads, or even a crisis point, in our life.
What are we to do? Firstly, take things slowly — there are rarely any quick answers. Secondly, take a close look at yourself — go within yourself and stand outside yourself. What really motivates you? Resuscitate your childhood dreams. Don’t dismiss them as impractical fantasies — they might contain vital clues to your future happiness. Then have a look at the things you loathe; their flip-side might reveal what you would love to do.
As well as reviving your inner world, take a look at yourself objectively. What are your greatest talents? There are the talents you have developed and the talents you were born with, and they aren’t always the same. It is fairly straightforward to identify the talents you have developed, if you haven’t done so already, and then find out the fields of work that value these skills.
It may be more difficult to identify your innate talents; they are such a natural part of you. Paradoxically, the people with the strongest natural talents often have the greatest difficulty in realising that other people lack the same talents. Try comparing yourself with the people you know. What can you do easily that other people find difficult? Canvas the views of your friends and co-workers, or someone unbiased, and consider carefully what they say about you.
It is just as important to examine the world around you — your workplace, and the myriad businesses you encounter in both your personal and professional life.
What makes some people happy in their work, and others disgruntled or apathetic? Would you be happy doing their job? What work environments attract you or repel you? What are the business sectors that are growing? What new job opportunities do they offer? Would you enjoy those jobs and excel in them?
Career consultants can sometimes be helpful in this questioning process if they have built up a good knowledge of the entry criteria and career paths that exist in a wide range of employment fields, both the well-trodden ‘front-door’ paths as well as the often faster and more direct ‘back-door’ paths in getting to where you want to go.
You might also find a free career test useful — type “career assessment questionnaire” in the search box of an Internet search engine. Try reading “What Color Is Your Parachute?”, by Richard Bolles, a book that many career-seekers have found worthwhile, or visit the author’s website at: www.jobhuntersbible.com.
It may take time to investigate all these questions, and the practical needs of living can prevent us from giving this questioning process our full attention. This is not necessarily a disadvantage — too close a focus can sometimes mean that we become overwhelmed by the complexity of it all, and fail to see the wood for the trees.
Probably it is best to investigate all this in the process of working itself, and to seek out the opportunity to try out a variety of jobs within our workplace. Life is full of surprises, and sometimes we can discover, even quite late in life, and quite by accident, a talent and a joy in expressing it, that no-one could have foreseen.
However, discovery is not possible unless we are open to it, and the trick — if it is a trick — is to make sure that the pressure of practical circumstances do not close off our dreams, crush our passions and prevent us from looking around the next corner, and learning more about ourselves and about the world that we live in.
© Chris Eilers 2001. Posted 25 Sep 2005. First published in The Press, Christchurch, on 19 May 2001.