Trapped in an Unfulfilling Job? How to Find Out What You Want to Do

Posted 17 March 2016 by
Global Marketing

This article originally appeared in HuffPost Business and was written by Karen Naumann, Organizational Psychologist. To read the article in its original format, click here

Lately, I’ve been talking to quite a lot of people of all ages, and I’ve noticed a common theme: unhappiness with their choice of job in some way, wishing they had done something else, but don’t know what they would want to do instead.

Okay, every once in awhile I guess it’s safe to say that every one of us is questioning things in our life. It usually happens when we are in a low mood or transition phase; however, if that unhappiness and determination of wanting to quit your current job remains, then you might want to reconsider what you actually want to do.

As a career counselor, I always tell my clients that there are four factors that determine their happiness in their next job or occupation: Skills, Interests, Personality, and Values. If one of them is out of sync, then they will probably eventually feel like a car running out of gas.

If you are at this point in your life where you urgently need to make a stop at a gas station to refuel your motivation and happiness, then perhaps you want to consider talking to a career counselor or coach.

The tools I’ll be introducing are just examples that I have worked with in the past and found to be useful in gaining insight and for continuing the process of self-reflection.

I strongly recommend working with a career counselor or coach who is trained in those assessment tools to avoid any misuse or misinterpretation of your results. Also, please keep in mind that those tests serve as additional help for your career exploration only.

Here are 5 tools that can help you replenish or restart your career:

1. Personality

How do you approach new tasks? Or, do you find team meetings depleting or energizing?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can help you understand yourself better. The test is based on Carl Jung’s Theory of Psychological Type and looks at how you make decisions, communicate with others, and perceive the world. After answering over 70 questions, you’ll get a four letter code type showing where you focus your attention (Introversion vs. Extraversion), how you take in information from the outside (Sensing vs. Intuition), the way you make decisions (Thinking vs. Feeling), and how you approach life (Judging vs. Perceiving).

There is no bad or good type, and you “are” not those four letters. Everyone is unique and much more complex. The MBTI is only about preference. I am sure that although you are right handed, you can write your name with your left hand too; it might not be as easy or comfortable for you, but it’s doable.

2. Interests

I usually ask my clients what they ENJOY doing. However, as of today, they often give me answers about what they are good at instead. Then I usually tell them about my example: I am pretty good with computers; however, I don’t necessarily enjoy doing this and wouldn’t want to work in the IT area. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you need to do it for a living.

Unfortunately, many people shy away from approaching their dream jobs because they simply think that they don’t have the skills or ability to do it. The STRONG Interest Inventory assessment will help you discover your top 3 areas of interest.

It is based on John Holland’s Vocational Choice Theory and differentiates between six areas: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional, which are arranged in form of a hexagon and your top 3 choices are usually adjacent to each other.

When you have identified your three main areas of interest, also referred to as your “Holland Code,” then your career coach will be able to help you explore jobs that could fit your interests and personality.

3. Skills

Skills are your abilities and behaviors, which are developed or acquired over time. I’m sure there are things you’re good at, and not so good at. Skills are an important part of your personality, so usually the things you enjoy doing are the things you do well.

Did you know that there are three different types of skills? There are technical (job related) skills, self-management (e.g. time-management, dependability) skills, and the most versatile ones: transferable skills (e.g. negotiating, communicating).

For example, a SkillScan Card Deck will make you think about what you can do, and help you organize and categorize them, so you will be better prepared and able to list them in your resume, as well as to talk more intelligently about your strengths in an interview.

4. Values

As mentioned in my last article about values, your values play an important role in your job search and career decision making. A simple values card sort will help you identify your top 6 values, for example: recognition, achievement, independence, support, working conditions etc.

Your career coach will also discover themes that will help you find out your top values and the ones that are of least importance to you.

Values drive your behavior and are big determinants for your overall happiness and satisfaction at your job, and that’s why it is important to avoid compromising your values in any way. So, if you don’t agree with your employer’s or company’s mission and vision, or with the product that you are representing, then chances are that you won’t enjoy your work.

5. Networking

This is probably the best tool to find a job after you found out what makes and keeps your “car” running. Many studies have shown that the majority of jobs are found through networking today. It’s oftentimes referred to as “Vitamin C,” where the “C” stands for connections.

Social media platforms like Linkedin or Xing are your best friends for building your network and researching people that do the job you’d like to do. Look for their path: what did they study? Where did they work before? What skills do they have? Then write them a message and introduce yourself briefly, and ask them a question, or ideally, ask them for an informational interview.

Be friendly, be kind, be interested, and most importantly: be yourself. Remember, we all like to see that someone is (genuinely!) interested in us and our background. And who knows? Maybe this person heard about an open position or is connected to other people that could help you. Also, perhaps you can shadow people or volunteer for a day to see what it’s like to be in that job.

As for myself, I got two out of my three internships during my Master degree studies in Chicago via networking, my first job through volunteering, and my current job via referral from “knowing someone who knows someone.”

Don’t give up; explore and believe in the good in people. They do want to help!