Female professional searching for jobs

On average, people spend 90,000+ hours in their lifetime at work. In many cases, employees see their colleagues in the office more often than they do their spouse and children. Multiple reports indicate that extreme displeasure with a job can contribute to physical ailments, emotional turmoil, and marital problems. A 2017 study by Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, only 13 percent of the workers interviewed said they are passionate about their job. Considering all of these factors, finding the right career – and the ideal job in that field – is an important element of overall life happiness.

If you are exploring your first career, looking to change jobs within a field, or interested in switching careers, it is crucial to take proper steps to maximize the chance that you will find fulfillment.

Job hunting can be a time-consuming and exhausting challenge, and the struggle is heightened if you do not have direction. What job is ideal for the next step in my life?  What career is right for me? Those are questions to ask and answer, regardless of whether you have recently graduated from college and are entering the workforce for the first time, or if you are a seasoned professional searching for a new position.

Here are some tips to point yourself in a positive direction for finding a job that is right for you:

Consider the three ingredients of finding your sweet spot

When narrowing your list of careers that are right for you, determine your talents, what businesses need, and what you like doing. The overlap between those three areas represents your career sweet spot.

Think about your skills and interests rather than job titles and fields.  Consider the work environment, too. Are you at your best performance level when you are moving around all day, or when you are uninterrupted at your desk? Do you prefer a structured schedule or variety from day to day? Do you like interacting with people, or would you rather operate solo on projects? Answers to these questions offer useful direction in your job search.

Focus on a viable fit, and not solely your passion

Ideally, you will spend a lifetime in a career that is a perfect match for your passion. Satisfaction with your career is not always about passion, though. It is more about being a viable fit. After all, if your passion is studying the grand philosophers in world history, there will be limited demand for those services.  Do your best to find a career that captivates your interest and viability for the long-term future, meaning that there will be job opportunities.

How to find what interests you

Begin by taking a self-assessment and personal development test, like 16personalities.com. It is beneficial to understand your strengths as well as areas that require improvement, and it is equally valuable to know what motivates you, and what bores you.

Are you not interested in a strictly structured environment? Perhaps a career a career that places a higher priority on creativity rather than organization is the right fit. If you would not be happy confined to a cubicle or an office the entire day, then you might be better suited to a position in outside sales, or a job where you work outdoors.

Brainstorm with these questions:

  • What subjects do you like to explore when reading? If you are consistently drawn to a specific subject, that indicates a clear interest in that area and could offer direction to your calling.
  • What activities do you partake in during your leisure time? Some hobbies can be transformed into a successful career.
  • What would you do for free? Volunteer interests can indicate potential career fits.

1. Determine whether your interests can become your career

Once you write down answers to the aforementioned questions, explore further by:

  • Research. The Internet is a treasure trove of information about any career imaginable, and specific jobs within that career. Your local library is also a valuable resource for information about careers. Once you have narrowed your options to a few possible careers, set appointments with professionals in those fields and learn what they do. Don’t be shy. Many people who are passionate about what they do for a living like sharing their experiences with others.
  • Volunteer, or work part-time in your chosen field. Before devoting all of your time and energy to find a job in a specific field, volunteer in a role, if possible, or get a part-time job in that area. For example, if you are majoring in communication, and  you are uncertain whether journalism or public relations is your best avenue, volunteer to write press releases and/or manage social media for a nonprofit, work as a freelancer for your local newspaper, or do both.
  • Career Assessment. Unless you are wholeheartedly set on a specific job in an exact career, taking a career assessment is crucial to help determine your interests, skills and values. A career assessment provides detailed information about your personality, what you like and do not like, and what types of work environments and job responsibilities you find rewarding.

2. Will there be a demand for your career in the future?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has an Online Occupational Handbook you can visit online. Here, you can type in a job title and read an article that offers information and numbers about the projected growth in that field. You can learn whether there is future growth anticipated over the next 10 years. This contributes to helping you make an informed decision. Perhaps there is a specific job within a specific field – information technology, for example – that you once thought would be ideal, but instead, you learn about current trends and the job outlook of IT careers that could attract you to a different position.

Once you have a better idea of a specific career, or even if you narrow it down to a few possibilities, other questions to consider are “What type of lifestyle would you like to live?” and “Where would you want to settle down geographically and call home?” If you desire a lavish home and an expensive sports car, you need a career that eventually pays a salary that can support that lifestyle. Developing a clear picture of where you want to live has an impact on overall quality of life, since the cost of living in some states is drastically higher than others. Living and working in Ames, Iowa is significantly different than doing the same in New York City.

3. Experience a day in the life of your career before choosing that career

When you were in elementary school, your answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” likely evolved from year to year. Perhaps it was a doctor one year and a lawyer the next. Maybe you had thoughts of becoming a teacher or a nurse. Once you complete a wide range of steps to develop a clearer portrait of a specific career, or a few possible careers, it is best to take the time to see what those jobs are actually like.

How to learn more about different careers

Job shadowing

Job shadowing presents a behind-the-scenes glimpse of an employee performing his or her daily work routine. It provides the opportunity to explore a variety of careers and develop a realistic picture of the tasks in different jobs. Job shadowing is an important element when contemplating a career.

Job shadowing offers you the ability to ask questions. From a practicing professional in your potential career of choice, you can learn, “What made you choose this career? What degree did you earn? Would you make any different decisions if you could go back? What do you like and not like about your profession? What advice can you give me if I choose this as a career?”


Job shadowing is one form of networking. In the future, the professionals you job shadow may be willing to offer more questions to consider and even write letters of recommendation on your behalf. Networking is a vital element in the job search. Investing the time to build meaningful relationships with professionals in various careers gives you sources for referrals, job leads, advice and further insight.

The most connected people are often the most successful in their respective careers. Networking will help you cultivate and enhance your skills, keep up-to-date on the latest trends in your industry, remain in the know about the job market, meet prospective mentors, and gain access to resources that will bolster your career development.

Related: How to Network

Career fairs

Career fairs are helpful for job seekers and employers alike. Employers meet, educate, and interview a plethora of candidates while job seekers are given the opportunity to ask questions, promote their abilities and experience, and make beneficial connections. Appearance is important at a career fair, so professional attire is appropriate.

Bring plenty of resumes and business cards to pass along your contact information, and be prepared to articulately talk about your talents, experience and education.  Career fairs can link you to contacts who can get you where you want to go, but it is important to know where that is.

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn