How Can We Choose A Better Fitting Job?
We all want a career that would both be personally satisfying and would make a big difference. But the epistemic problem seeps in. We don’t know what our other options are, or how to choose among them. As someone who wants to make a significant difference in our life, how should we go about making career decisions? There are a dizzying number of career paths, each with their positives and negatives.
At the same time, the decision is high-stakes.
Whether it is working for someone or working for ourselves, we’re probably gonna spend at least a year or two in the same place. It is a substantial amount of hours spent at a single place, which means it makes sense to invest a considerable amount of time in the decision too. Many of us spend time beefing and beautifying our resumes, yet only a few actually sat down and think about their careers. Even if you already have a career, think about it.
The process is worth it.
There are tons of considerations relevant in choosing the right (or better) career. We want to ensure that we give due weight to the appropriate factors. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves: Am I excited by the job? Can I imagine myself sticking with it for the next 6 months? How good am I, or could i become, at this type of work, compared to other people or compared to other careers I might choose? What is my impact while I’m working at this job? How well does this job build my skills, connections and credentials? How well does this job keep my options open?
How much will I learn in the course of this job about what I might want to do next?
Ultimately, we’re narrowing down to the pinnacle of whether is the job a personal fit for us. If we’re not happy at work, in ways more than one, we’ll be less productive and more likely to burn out which results in less impact in the long-term. Surely, there will be people betting on job satisfaction as an end in itself and money is the perfect antidote for feeling exhausted and empty. But we want to get real with ourselves and demystify the feel-good misinformation out there. Following our passion, or to put it romantically, following what makes us itch, sounds scarily similar to the talk around romance: when we find our perfect fit, we’ll just know.
However, it is vital to take note that many of us don’t have passions that fit the world of work.
It has been shown in multiple academic studies that more than 60 percent of students had passion and an estimate of 85% of these involved sports, music and art. Simply by looking at census data, there are only up to 10 percent of jobs that are in the sports, music and art industries. This indicates that even if only half the students followed their passion, the majority would still fail to secure a job of their passion.
To add on the stockpile of harsh facts, it is often the case that we’re passionate about something is a good reason why it will be difficult to find a job in that area. Many other people are also passionate about the same thing, which is what creates competition. This is the situation in sports and music, where only the extremely talented (and lucky) people can make a steady living. In the United States, fewer than one in one thousand high school athletes make it into professional sports.
It appears that when we follow our passion, all it does is merely prompt anxious soul-searching and send us into a deep abyss.
Let’s take an empirical approach towards this epistemic problem. It sounds counter-intuitive, but all we gotta do is to try out different types of work and use our track record to analyse how well we’ll perform in the future. At the start of our career, we ought to be open-minded about where we’ll eventually be able to perform our best. Furthermore, we want to learn as much about the work as we can. This involves not only our work, but the entirety of how the company operates. One of the most important questions we can ask around are some of the main reasons why people end up leaving the job that we are intending to take.
Identifying a job with what we call a good “personal fit” involves finding out as much about a job we can to determine how well we succeed in enjoying the job in hope that it corresponds in some way, shape or form with our preexisting passions.
To the best of our abilities, we are not looking for the best answers out there, but some of the best questions to seek the best version of ourselves:
Independence — To what extent do we have control over how we go about our work?
Sense of completion — To what extent does the job involve completing a whole piece of work so that our contribution to the end product is easily visible, rather than being merely a small part of a much larger product?
Variety — To what extent does the job require us to perform a range of different activities, using different skills and talents?
Feedback from the Job — How easy is it to know whether we’re performing well or badly?
Contribution — To what extent does our work make a difference, as defined by positive contributions to the well-being of other people?
Remember.. experience is naturally something we don’t get until just after we need it.