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Not Sure What You Want? Think Career Ingredients, Not Job Titles

career ingredients

A lot of people have trouble figuring out what they want to do with their career. Sure you can think up a long list of potential careers, but how the hell are you supposed to know which one is the best fit, right? It’s too much pressure.

So let’s forget about job titles for a minute. Let’s talk about career ingredients instead – because the truth is you don’t need to know exactly what your ideal job looks like in order to identify some of the main ingredients that would make a really satisfying career.

One of my clients – I’ll call him Michael – wants to stay within the same industry, but plans to look for a different job based on his own personal preferences for more collaboration, more problem solving, more creativity, more design, and less isolation, less nitty gritty detail, less uncertainty, less stagnation, and less routine. These were his career ingredients.

Another one of my clients – I’ll call him Antonio – wanted to put down roots in Toronto, but without being tethered to a job that would limit his ability to travel. He had parents in Europe, a sister on the west coast, and a brother in New York. It was important to him that he be able to visit them for more than two weeks a year.

Antonio also wanted to work in the arts and has a particular passion for arts festivals. He decided to build a career that combined a series of festival contracts with a web design business on the side. The time in between festival contracts would allow him to travel and see his family, and the side web design business would provide some financial stability during that time. He would take on more clients as needed.

This particular career plan may appeal to you, or it may send you running for the hills. But the important thing is that it is a perfect fit for Antonio. It includes all of the career ingredients he wanted more of (arts, festivals, freedom to travel, financial stability, variety) and none of the ones he wanted less of (corporate work, rigid vacation schedule).

What ingredients do you want more of in your career? What are the things you already love to do, and what would you love to add? More autonomy? More travel? A friendlier corporate culture? More structure and direction? More transparency? More variety? More routine? More mentorship? Teamwork? Clear, detailed processes? Working with people more? Something more entrepreneurial?

What career ingredients do you want less of? What are all the work activities you hate to do – the things you wish you never had to do again? Less report writing? Fewer meetings? A shorter commute? Less bureaucracy and red tape? Less shift work? Fewer nights and weekends at the office? Smaller projects? Less research? Less deadline-driven work? Less rigid processes? A less hectic, cluttered space?

Figuring out what you don’t want can be one of the most helpful tools in figuring out what you do want…because for most people it’s easier to start there. Rule out any gig that contains too many of the ingredients that turn you off. No job is perfect, but the last thing you want is a job that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.


Not sure what you want? Think career ingredients, not job titles. tweet


This is an excerpt from Careergasm: A Course For Discovering Your Calling


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