Chasing the Perfect Career Part 2
This is part 2 of a discussion on career, the cultural messages around career choices, and how to find what is right for your lifestyle. Check out part 1 if you haven't read it yet.
The “perfect” career exists somewhere along a spectrum that depends on your individual priorities and characteristics.
For some, being closer to the passion project and creating less work/life division feels right. For others, working in a job they care about but are happy to leave at the office at the end of the week is right. For others, finding a job that provides enough flexibility in hours and enough financial stability to pursue passions outside the office is the right fit. The reality is, there are very few jobs that exist where you can have it all- flexibility, appropriate division between work and home life, high salary, fantastic company culture, ideal location, passion for the work itself, right level of responsibility and freedom, etc. The key is defining what your priorities are and what you feel you’ll gain by focusing on those things.
Money is often a big focus when individuals are making career decisions, and to a certain extent, is one of the most important aspects of whether a career works for you. After all, we work to support ourselves and our families. What studies have shown, however (such as the one cited in this Time article) is that past a certain point, increasing salary does not increase day to day happiness. Enough money to pay bills and buy essentials is necessary; enough money to do fun things like going out with friends is important; enough money to buy a small island does not, apparently, have an impact on how often you’ll look in the mirror and see a happy face looking back at you.
Be incredibly honest with yourself- if you feel strongly that a higher salary will make you happier, take that a step further and challenge yourself to determine what areas of life will be better with more money. Ask yourself how others’ opinions or comparisons to an ideal influence your priority list. That same study mentioned earlier determined that how you compare to your immediate neighbors and peers financially impacts how successful and satisfied you feel. Are you living somewhere where your values align with those around you, or do you feel pressure to keep up with the Joneses?
Once you’ve determined what you absolutely need from a financial standpoint, consider the other aspects. Are you an independent person who chafes when told what to do? Do you prefer having someone above you who can take the heat for unpopular decisions? Do you need to be able to be outside when it is daylight? Do you need flexibility to go to your kids’ doctor appointments and school plays? Do you have to be interested in the overall mission of your company to be motivated to work? Pay attention to the things that create a sense of satisfaction in your life already, whether in your work life or personal life. Recognize that there will be compromises when finding the right job, but that the most important things on your priority list are worth chasing. Then, actively seek out those things that are most important for your satisfaction, and let the rest go.