Many of my peers shared with me that they are unable to figure out what they really want in a job or career.
If this is something you’re going through, don’t worry, you are not alone. it is common to go through a period of self-doubt and insecurity about your career path after graduation. In fact, it was recently reported that 4 in 5 young adults in Singapore experience quarter-life crisis.
I went through the same journey as well. In my first year at work, I was confused about what I really wanted in job as well. I shortlisted a couple of things but could not really settle on one – Was it digital marketing? Sales? Go back to Journalism? Public Policy?
I was often stumped when people asked me where I saw myself in 5 years. I definitely did not have this vision of who I am today 5 years ago. I didn’t even know what I wanted. So, usually I would just give the interviewer the politically correct answer “I want to be like you.”
Initially, I felt quite alone in this journey. Many of my peers seemed to know from Day 1 at university what they wanted to do – they studied advertising or PR and eventually got a career in that field. I recall having a classmate who told me she wanted to be a teacher when she was 13 years old. Now, she is living her dreams.
Eventually, I was able to settle on what I wanted. If I were to rate my current job satisfaction now, it is probably 9 out of 10. To help my peers, I decided to write this post to share how I did it.
Table of Contents
Know yourself first
知彼知己，百戰不殆 If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.Sun Tzu
As shared in my interview with Glints, it is important to first understand yourself.
To learn more about my own preferences, strengths and weaknesses, I did two things.
First of all, I did a few internships and part-time jobs in university. I felt that these really helped me to understand what I wanted or did not want to do. During which, I learnt what type of management styles and company cultures suited me best as well as what type of work I was good at.
I also took personality tests. I took the MBTI, DISC, and Big Five Personality test. I understand that there is no personality test that is 100 percent accurate but they are a good start in helping you understand basic inclinations about yourself. In my experience, they pointed me in the right direction.
If you are willing to pay for it, you can also take the CliftonStrengths (Previous known as StrengthsFinder) which my boss recommended to me.
Should you be a spiritual person, you can also consider bazi readings if that if something you believe in. As long as something helps you with self-discovery, I feel that it is not necessarily a bad idea.
Next, decide what elements of a job would be important to you
When it comes to deciding what to do, many tend to think in binary options. For instance, they may decide on one particular job – “I want to be an air stewardess”
This may not be the best way because if you think in such terms – you either get it, or you don’t. It could lead to a lot of unnecessary pressure or sadness.
A more realistic approach could be to come up with what you want in a job and then look out for roles that fit these criteria.
How to use this template?
There are three columns in this template:
- Must have: Areas which you cannot compromise on
- Good to have: Things which are a bonus but not a necessity
- Dealbreakers: If a job has these things, I won’t accept the offer
I’ve estimated that it could take around 15 minutes to 30 minutes to complete this exercise.
The most important thing to note when doing this exercise is to approach this with a non-judgemental attitude. As much as possible, do not feel sorry or bad for wanting attributes such as “flexibility” or “worklife balance“. There is no wrong or right.
If you find yourself judging yourself too much, then validate this with a trusted senior or peer. You can even send it to me if you want and I’d share my personal feedback with you.
Personally, I refresh this on an annual basis. This is because my priorities change as I grow older. In my case, in my first 3-4 years at work, pay and progression are super important.
However, in the past two years, I’ve managed to achieve the annual salary I wanted. Thus, other things become important to me as well.
Yet, these could change again in the future. For instance, if I suddenly have five children, I would require more to support them and salary would become important again.
When it comes to dealbreakers, some may feel it is too idealistic to find a job without these factors.
However, your ability to say no would increase when you either:
(1) Specializing and doing well in a field where number of talents < job openings, or,
(2) Have a massive walk-away fund – 1 year worth of your monthly expenses which you can tap on to be able to exit toxic situations at work
For instance, before building up my savings and CV, I would put up with a role with a bad boss because I needed the money to pay the bills.
However, now that I am more established in my career and have the ‘walk-away fund’, I have much more power to say no to such situations.
How can this exercise benefit you?
Besides helping you to figure out what you want, there are many other benefits of this exercise
- It helps you know exactly what questions to ask in an interview and what to look out for. Of course, for certain factors, it is hard to find out from an interview itself. For instance, no one will ever admit they play favourites or is a micro-manager – even if they are. To determine this, you can request to meet your future teammates or try to get insider information by asking your friends who work in that company.
- It ensures that you can stay in a job for a longer time without feelings unhappy. For instance, if you find yourself complaining about a new job because of the distance, look back at this template to see if distance is really a ‘good to have’ or ‘must have’ for you. You may even be able to validate your decision i.e. “Yes, it is a bit far from my house but it is okay because it fulfills all my ‘must-haves'”
- It helps you to reflect on your past work experiences and know what you want
My 2019 version
To assist you with filling up this template, I will share my 2019 version and then talk about some of variables I’ve included.
1. To me, future proof is extremely important
I do not see myself leaving the technology industry within the next five years. I will avoid any sunset industry or company that is not growing.
2. I also need to believe in the solution I am selling
I’ve used my current company’s CRM for 5 years and 100 percent believe in it. I will not sell any other kind of sales CRM.
If I am asked by another technology company that does not use my company’s CRM to join, even if they pay me 10 percent more than what I am earning now, I would not.
I’ve been in roles where I do not see the full value of my solution to assigned territory and my performance was not great. If I do not buy a solution myself, how can I convince other people to buy?
3. To me, a good boss is an absolute must
I’ve worked for terrible bosses before and my life was miserable. In fact, for my current role, 50 percent of my joining decision is based on my boss and his boss. If my immediate boss leaves within 6 months of me joining, I would feel quite cheated.
The definition of a good boss differs from person to person.
However, in my specific role, I need someone who is willing to teach, willing to consider other perspectives, and not believe he is correct all the time and also does not always believe the customer is right. I’ve been in this industry for 5 years and sometimes customers are just unreasonable (expect immediate response time within minutes) or just throwing tantrums for more discount or more benefits.
If I have a boss who always gives way or believes the customer is right always, I will be very miserable. It is one thing to care about customer achieving the business value and outcomes, and another to bend over backwards.
GOOD TO HAVE
Having more than 14 days annual leave
When I received an offer letter, it was 14 days per annum and I accepted it. After I joined, this was raised to 20 days per annum.
However, even they stuck to 14 days leave, I am still happy.
In the past, I wanted a lot of annual leaves because I wanted to travel 4-5 times a year. These days, I just plan to travel 2 times a year. In that case, just 14 days is more than sufficient.
Nonetheless, if I am given more, it is a ‘good to have’, I can go on longer trips or simply take leave for other purposes.
1. A Toxic Boss
Just like how a good boss is subject, I believe a bad one varies from person to person.
Some things I would not tolerate now is – a boss who has a romantic/sexual relationship with one of their staff; who plays favorites in a way that is too obvious and demoralizing. Or, someone who just criticizes and does not appreciate or encourage.
2. Cult-like culture
For our generation, there has been a rise of “Do what you love” mantra. In my view, this is often abused by organization to make employees take on greater workload without any additional pay. Or, to put organizational interest way above their own even if they are not shareholders or do not have equity.
In fact, a recent study by Duke University found that people believe it is more acceptable to make passionate employees do extra, unpaid, and more demeaning work.
We see this in many startups, where they try to indoctrinate that your job is your identity, you need to work for passion and not for the money. I personally try to avoid cult-like cultures because I find it quite detrimental to one’s wellbeing in the long term.
I hope that this exercise has been helpful for you. If you feel this is useful, please feel free to share it with your friends.
To download this template, you may do so below! If you’re interested in another template, you can also refer to the free template on tracking and managing your personal finance.