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Finding your Purpose

You have probably heard the adage “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” before. Finding meaningful and satisfying work is critical to finding happiness in your life. If you hate your job, no matter what else you do with your life, your life will be out of balance. If you are just starting out in your career, going off to college, or considering a career move, how can you improve your chances of landing in a job you love?

There is an exercise I walk people through when they are uncertain as to what’s next for them in their career. It can help focus their job search to look for the right roles. It’s based on the Japanese concept of ikigai, which roughly translates to “reason for being.” Finding ikigai can take time, and it can be a moving target. But those that strive for ikigai generally find much more satisfaction in their life. Ikigai can best be represented in a diagram:

The goal is finding the overlap of all four circles. Getting to that point puts you into a place where you are excited to get out of bed in the morning, the days fly by, and you leave work energized and ready for tomorrow. Let’s take a closer look –

That which you love

Write down a list of all the things you enjoy doing – either in your profession, hobbies, or at home. Really dig in and make it as extensive as possible. Your list could include hard-skills like data analysis, small engine repair, to soft skills like building teams. Do not self-filter your list – if you like to eat, for example, put it down.

That which you are good at

Write down all the skills or knowledge you have that you have some level of mastery or subject matter expertise. This list will change over time as you learn new skills and expertise. This is not limited to work-related stuff -the goal is to get as many things down on the list as possible.

That which you can be paid for

Write down all the skills and experience you have that are in demand in the marketplace. If you are not sure, you can spend time checking the number of job postings locally (or nationally) that contain that skill. Some in-demand skills could be newer fields (ex: cyber security, social media) or simply rare. If demand outstrips supply, and/or take years of training and education you can expect those jobs to come with higher salaries. If there is a glut of those skills, take minimal training to learn or are obsolete, there will be little to no demand and compensation will be lower accordingly. This circle is the circle most influenced by geography – what is hot in one market might not be in another. If you are planning on going to school or going back to school – plan your studies with the outcome in mind. You can get a Ph.D in a field but if there is no demand, or an oversupply, your job prospects will be slim.

That which the world needs

Make a list of the you have that make the most impactful skills for others. The scale is not as important, as long as your work makes a positive impact the for somebody. It could be as little as one person (like your boss), your customers, or your community. What a corporation or organization’s mission is will also play into your job satisfaction. The importance of this circle is often overlooked or underestimated. Without this, you run the risk of falling into a situation where your job is just a job, and you end up going through the motions – or “working for the weekend” which is no way to live.

Once you have gone through the lists, the goal is to find the overlapping areas, ideally in the center. If you are off the mark, you can explore ways to get to the center. For example, perhaps you like to eat, and are good at writing – you could start a food blog in your free time and someday see it become your full-time job. You can take classes in emerging fields and find you enjoy doing it, and as your skills improve the compensation and your increased ability push to the center.

The closer to you get to finding your ikigai, the more satisfaction you will find in all areas of your life. It is more important than other more common metrics of success, like income. Feeling successful and fulfilled professionally will be a key component to your overall well-being. We wish you luck on your journey.

If you are looking to make a change in your career or are just starting out, and would like some help, please visit to learn more and consider subscribing to our newsletter. If you would like individualized coaching, please let us know as well.

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