How do you find a job you’ll love that will love you back?

By laura sly on 21 Aug 2015 - 10:55

This article explores the route to feeling passionate about what you do. Most of us can feel passionate about a particular “cause”; but to enjoy working towards that cause, we need to use our strengths or we risk boredom or burn out, however aligned we are to the bigger goal.

For a job to be good for you, it needs to draw on your natural strengths, not just your competence (skills and knowledge). A brief explanation of the difference between competence and strength is that whilst we can become competent at a task through learning and practice, our true strengths are within our personality – they’re just kind of “there” – and they energise us when we use them.

Here are some examples: I am naturally drawn to detail – especially to checking grammar, spelling and punctuation. Whilst I have learned about grammar, spelling and punctuation (and try hard to get it right) I also have a natural fascination with it. I can happily proofread for hours! I was (lovingly) referred to as the “Apostrophe Monitress” in one job I had, where report checking was a small component of my role.

On the other hand, I am not naturally drawn to efficiency. I can be highly efficient and have managed complex projects with many moving parts successfully. I have learned to use tools that help with this and I cannot bear them! Any of them! When I see a spreadsheet a little part of me dies.
So, you see, efficiency isn’t a strength of mine – I can just do things efficiently when I have to (and someone is watching). The key here is that efficiency doesn’t energise me. I am competent – I can be efficient - but I don’t feel passionately about it.

Enough about me – because this is about you. When you are choosing your next role, see if you can add “good for me?” to your list of criteria. Ask yourself these sorts of questions:

  1. Just because I can use spreadsheets/databases, do I really want to use them a lot in my new role? Or will it bore me and leave me feeling flat?
  2. Although I have had to collaborate often in previous roles, did I genuinely enjoy it? (Or would I rather work on my own to finish a project?)
  3. Even though I am great at following established processes, would I miss the energy that being creative and showing initiative gives me?
  4. I’ve “hit the ground running” in previous jobs. I can do it. But did I get ill/stressed/fed up? Am I naturally resilient or do I need a gentler pace/more support in my next role until I’m feeling more confident?

When you are honest with yourself about your strengths (things you’re good at that are good for you) you will be able to make wise decisions about potential roles. Because most of us can survive in a job where it’s just about showing competence – but to enjoy it and want to stay there and stay healthy, we need the stuff that energises us. In the real world, there will be some compromise: just make sure there’s only a sprinkling of the stuff that weakens you, and lots of the stuff that strengthens you – and not the other way around.

Get help identifying your strengths via our Career coaching service.


Laura Sly helps people identify and use their strengths at work, so everyone is happier! @lausly