There is a question that I ask everyone who reports to me at one time or another: If you could do anything in the world to make a living, no limitations or restrictions, you could be older, younger, live in the past, live in the future, what would you do?
Would it surprise you to know that fewer than 2% of the people I ask that question ever answer with the job they’re in? To be fair I don’t know that I have yet answered that way either. Let’s quadruple my experience though. Let’s guess that 8% of the people you know are in the job that is their perfect fit. Really?!? 8%? That’s horrible. How is it that so few people are really in a job that is what they’d think of as a perfect fit?
The job we land in is typically dictated by a significant number of factors: pay, location, schedule, opportunity for advancement, experiential fit, prestige. If we’re lucky a few of those factors come together and land near what we’d call our perfect job.
I think the trouble, for most of us, is that we never actually interrogate our answer to the question, if you could do anything what would you do? Why never actually ask ourselves why?
For years my answer to that question was that I would either play professional football or act. I played football all the way through college, even a season after college, loved it, miss playing, but I’m way too old now…even by Brett Favre standards. I’ve done some local acting around the edges. Loved it. But I have a family to support and there aren’t a ton of high paying acting gigs in Colorado Springs.
So I guess I’m stuck right? Wrong.
You see when I finally took the time to ask myself why I would pick one of those two professions, and did a little digging, I realized that what those two options had in common was what I call spectacle. They each are imbued with opportunity to take people out of the course of daily routine and provide them with an emotional experience that is outside their norm. I LOVE being able to create those moments for people.
For me the word “spectacle” encompasses what I want to be involved in creating. Now, here’s the interesting bit, the rest of that job stuff? Title, location, particular company, prestige etc. etc. all starts to take a back seat. Pay is still important because I have a wife and three kids after all, but as long as what I do has an element of spectacle to it I’m good to go!
So in order to figure out if YOU are in the right job you need to explore the answer to three questions:
- If you could do anything to make a living, no restrictions, (the age excuse on football falls out here), what would you do?
- What are the elements of your answer to #1 that most inspire you, in other words, why did you pick that?
- How much of your answer to #2 is present in your current job?
To be fair you may need someone to help you dig a bit. By way of example my little brother hated question #1, got tired of people asking him about his passion. He just knew he wasn’t happy in his job and would rather be “doing adventures”. But you can’t support a family just doing adventures so he’d given up. Would it surprise you to learn that with some probing and digging we landed on corporate tax accounting as a potential career change? On the surface that seems CRAZY, but once we’d answered the “why” and found the elements he was after HE even agreed that it sounded cool.
Put titles and labels aside. Ask yourself the questions. Get someone to help you dig for the real “why” and you may surprise yourself with where you land.
Are you in the right job? Why do you think you just answered the way you did?