People foolishly ask me for career advice, just because they find my blog. They say to themselves, “Daniel looks like he’s having fun doing what he does. Maybe he’ll know how I can too.”
Well, I do have fun doing marketing — sometimes. There are a lot of boring and annoying bits, too.
And the meetings! Oh, the meetings!
Now, I’d love to say to the doe-eyed and bushy-tailed innocents: Just do what you love and the money will follow. People love that kind of advice. Sadly, it happens to be stupid.
You get paid because your job is annoying. If the job is actually fun, you won’t get paid very much. So whatever you do, don’t expect to have fun doing your job.
Rather, do something that presses your buttons — something that stimulates those parts of your brain that you like using. But how do you know what these are?
Usually at this point I tell people to take the little diagnostic tool found in the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. Here’s my secret technique about how to get the most possible out of this little book. (Note: I now have a much longer post about this process.)
- Skim the book, but DO NOT take the test yet.
- Mark what strengths you think you have. Choose your top 5 or 6.
- Take the test and get your results.
- Reread carefully the pages describing your results. (You will need to do this, because you probably had at least 1 or 2 surprises.)
- Consider the difference between what you got and what you thought you would get.
Often, the strengths you self-identified in Step 2 are your “self-image” strengths — that is, they describe how you’d like to be in your ideal and perhaps Walter Mittyesque world. The strengths identified by the test are your deeper strengths — the things that have truly shaped you and your career. You need to pay attention to those deeper strengths and look for jobs that stimulate them.
Now, you may not like the test’s results. Too bad — in the case of everybody I know who’s taken the test, the results are more reflective of their true natures and desires. In some cases, the career they chose has profoundly shaped (or maybe distorted) these strengths. Ignore these at your peril.
Note that StrengthsFinder does NOT tell you what job to get, or what industry to work in. It tells you two things: (1) what kind of problems you like to solve; and (2) how you like to work with others.
Typically a single type of problem applies to many industries. If you like to write, you could be a journalist or a copy writer. If you like numbers, you could be an accountant, an engineer, or a performance marketer. The important thing is that you do what you like. It’s not important that you do it in aerospace or wholesale or anything in between.
The second part is how you like to work with others. This tells you what kind of organizational culture you need. Now, I’m sure that all you have worked for an organization with which you had a pool cultural fit. It sucks, gravely. If you go into an interview and don’t ask about an organization’s culture, or find out what kind of people are most successful, then I hope you’re also the kind of person who goes to the movies and watches whatever is playing on Screen 1. Your chance of being satisfied with your choice would be similar.
In summary, work won’t always be fun. But you can actually like it if it stimulates you, takes advantage of your strengths, and lets you work with people the way you like to work with them.
OK, now you know what you want to do and how you want to work. I’ll deal with the transition in Part 2.