Until recently, career professionals believed a satisfying career was one that matched a person’s values, interests and skills with the job.
While this sounds good, there’s one problem: it just doesn’t work for most people. For two reasons: as it turns out, these “big three” – values, interests and skills – are not the most important factors, and they all change over time.
In the United States people are asked to make important career decisions way too early. In high school, students have to decide whether or not to go to college, and once in college, are required to declare a major by their sophomore year. Thus at twenty-years old, students routinely make important life decisions that set in motion a career trajectory that many find difficult to change. (This is not a knock on twenty-year olds! I’m just suggesting that most people don’t usually get a handle on who they are and what’s really important to them, until much later in life.)
So, the lucky ones graduate, land a job in “their field” and begin working. As they get married and have families, understandably the values they held at twenty are often replaced by new ones. And as they experience more of life, they also develop new interests and skills.
Before they know it, they’re in their forties with other mouths to feed, a mortgage and car payments to make with fresh worries about how to pay for their kids’ education and their retirement. And although studies show that less than half of all workers would choose the same job if they could have a “do over”, there are many good reasons why so many people stay right where they are: looking for a job can be a full-time job in itself, society applauds stability and disapproves of risk-taking, people grow accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and many just don’t see a lot of viable options – especially in a tight job market.
So, they stay in unfulfilling jobs and “run out the clock” looking forward to retirement. Unfortunately, due to the sharp economic downturn, it’s not unusual for people to continue working well into their sixties and seventies. The point is: most of us will have to work for a long time: we might as well enjoy it!
“So, if matching a job with my values, interests and skills will not lead me to a satisfying career, what will help me find work that uses my natural talents and really excites me?