SupportDid you know in the pre-industrialised world there were around 30 different jobs to do? You might well have made things such as barrels, worked leather, a potter or looking after horses for example. You get the picture. Most jobs were pretty straightforward jobs to earn a living.

However, today and at the last count, there are approximately 12,000 different jobs, careers and occupations (Krznaric 2012). So it’s no wonder people feel confused about how to find a job or career. We have countless guru’s that suggest all we need for career fulfilment is to follow our passion. But do we have a deep emotional connection to a career choice or an emotional need for recognition? Maybe we are looking for a career that is fulfilling that will match our values, talents, meaning and purpose etc. So my question then is, are you career confused or have career clarity?

Paralysis through analysis

Statistics show we spend 2-3 years in one job before moving on.  Thus putting us in a perpetual career/work transitional phase and having to re-invest ourselves time after time. If this is the case, a good career strategy is a must. Younger people tend to expect to move career & jobs on a more regular basis and are generally looking for different and more meaningful aspects from an employer, job or career. Just check out any of the numerous infographics on what the Millennial group are expecting from a job or career.

So how do you find a job or career that has a good match for where you are in your working life? Perhaps you are starting out and just wanting to get onto the career ladder, or at a stage where you are looking for something more meaningful to do with your time? Do you specialise, generalise or spread your net over a range of roles as a wide achiever?

The “follow your passion” fallacy

Career choice when there is so much choice can be tricky. Do we need to retrain, go back to university/college, or start an apprenticeship somewhere. Or more to the point what are we studying for exactly and for what reason? Many people talk about finding your passion and following a dream job, perhaps its all about finding a purpose and or more meaning in our work. All of these aspects of what we do or more to the point why we do what we do is of course important. However, I would argue that to find a passion or follow a dream there must be one already pre-existing. In the main people have a passion for a hobby, a charity or a cause that we believe passionately about. Though this does not make it a career choice, as we probably do not have those rare and valuable skills that the industry or business needs. More to the point are prepared to pay you for. Professor Scott Galloway sums up the issues around the glib “follow your passion” mantra.

Finding your Purpose

So although your passion can be the motivation and the drive to change what you do in your career, it is not enough to just tell a recruiter that you have a dream to work in a sector. Here is the hard part folks, it really does come down to finding something that you can do, do it well, get really really good at it and learn to love what you do. Clearly, you can be passionate about what you do in your career i.e the purpose and the meaning etc. However, it is the rare and valuable skills that will pay the bills in the end. So please take the gurus who peddle the “find your passion” & “follow your dreams” fallacy with a pinch of salt, as it may well be a snake oil salesperson trying to key into your emotional need. Rather than the pragmatic purposeful career development strategy that will sustain you during your transition or changes.

What to do?

So clearly we will need to think about all these elements, however in the meantime here are a few things to think about that may help the focus on finding a job/career with meaning & purpose. Needless to say, I will leave you to decide upon what constitutes meaning, purpose, fulfilment and what will sustain you in your work.

Career Clarity Checklist

  1. If you just need a job the way to go is plan then implement. Apply your skills, abilities, knowledge & experience etc to fitting an industry, trade or career path and get things moving quickly – the plan and implement model. Get the CV out there, brush up the social media profiles, network and find the people who can connect you to those businesses looking for new recruits. This method may not help you find the “special” role but it will help you move forward.
  2. Getting into a job will help you know what you like and do not like in a job or career. You may find that things don’t necessarily match your career vision, purpose, beliefs, values and meaning; but you are getting on with experimenting with work. Trying different jobs and career paths will help build up your flexibility and experiential learning about the workplace. Furthermore where you see your future.
  3. Start some voluntary work (if you can) that fits if not satisfied in your current job or career. It may lead on to different opportunities, helping you know if your passions are a lovely fantasy or a future reality. If the thought of changing career is scary, try this model to start the process of change and becoming less risk-averse.
  4. Spend time in a career or job that you had never previously thought of. As suggested by Roman Krznaric in his 2012 book How to Find Fulfilling Work a “radical sabbatical”
  5. Try to identify two clear goals that will help with your career choices. First being earned success that helps with the sense of accomplishment & the second is pursuing work that is service to others. Put another way the sense that your job is making the world a better place. Clearly, this will mean different things to different people of course. However, bear in mind what drives you to make your career choices. Being aware of your beliefs and values will help your career satisfaction fit.
  6. Lastly, and not for the faint-hearted – act first and reflect later (Krznaric, 2012). Going with a career or job that isn’t necessarily planned as mentioned before maybe a step too far. Though if there is an opportunity to just “feel the fear and do it anyway“, you may find that this will open your working worldview to career experiments? Perhaps these are the career opportunities that you had not thought of in your planning phase of career management?


So there we are that’s enough careers and work navel-gazing for the time being. Most of us find something we can do, work hard and get good at something. For some that is good enough, but for many, it can be about looking beyond our horizons. Perhaps looking for something that will help us give back to society and to make a difference in peoples lives. It might be a charity or a subject that you know needs fixing to make the organisation function better.

However, the most satisfied people with their work & careers are those who find a match between their employer’s values and their own career values. Included in that is the pursuit of two goals, of earned success & pursuing work that is service to others, as mentioned before. These value judgements on why you do what you do will help you identify your career drivers, thus help you aim in the right direction. Career choice then can be a good thing but only if you know where you are going. Good luck with your choices people and most of all enjoy the ride.

Bibliography & References

Botton, A. (2009) “The Pleasures & Sorrows of Work” Penguin Books, London

Krznaric, R. (2012) “How to Find Fulfilling Work” Macmillan

Baldry, C. et al (2007) “The Meaning of Work in the New Economy” Palgrave Macmillan

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