Eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, 2,000 hours a year -- for the average nine-to-fiver, that's a lot of your life spent working. Add to that the 192 hours a year the typical person spends commuting to work, and you've wasted more than 25 percent of your working life if you're not doing something you love [source: Gallup].
If you've been applying for jobs to no avail, or simply hate the one you currently have, don't give up. It's important to find a career that you love, and, although it might seem like it, it's not an impossible task. With a little perseverance and patience, our five tips for finding a job you love will get you on your way to a happier work life.
Look for Companies That Share Your Values
An avid environmentalist would never be happy at a company that doesn't even recycle its printer paper. And, a very ambitious person would never want to work for a business that doesn't recognize its employees for their accomplishments. Values are extremely important to finding a job you love, because if your company's values do not match up with yours, you'll never been 100 percent happy.
If you're not sure what's important to you, figure that out first. After all, defining those is the first step to finding a company that shares your values. Experts at career Web site Monster.com suggest you consider how you might rank certain intrinsic, extrinsic and lifestyle values, including some of the following:
- Traveling for work
- Saving for retirement
- Room for advancement
- Vacation time
- Making a difference
- Prestige or social status
- Your commute
- Time for your family
Do you enjoy exotic vacations? If so, you need a job with a good vacation plan that also pays well. Or, if you have a family, you probably want to search for jobs that allow you to work from home sometimes and value your work-life balance. Figure out what's important to you, and then do your research before applying for a position.
Write a Customized Resume and Cover Letter
First impressions are vital in the job search process. Oftentimes, your first impression with a company is your resume and cover letter. That's why it's essential to customize them to the job you're applying for. Your resume should start out with an objective or brief synopsis about why you're perfect for this specific job. Try putting the company's name in your objective for extra oomph. Because many companies use electronic searches to screen resumes, your first impression will not be with an employee, but instead with a computer looking for specific key words. How do you know what key words it's looking for? It's simple. They are usually listed in the job description. Scan the job description for key words you can incorporate into your resume.
Finally, include a cover letter with your resume that summarizes what you have to offer. The cover letter is the place to address anything specific to the position that you have to offer that you didn't have place for on your resume, as well as the experience that is most relevant to the position. Be sure to address your cover letter to the specific hiring manager if you can find his or her name.
Test the Waters
The best way to learn if a company or a position is the right one for you is to test the waters with informational interviews or by donating your time through an unpaid internship. Informational interviews can be fairly easy to set up, and they can really tell you a lot about the company without the pressure of impressing someone for a job. You can arrange these interviews with companies you're interested in that may not necessarily have a current job opening. Ask questions about the company (remember the values you've identified) and about the jobs they have that might fit with your skill set. If you're lucky, one of these positions might open up soon, and then you'll already have a leg up on the competition by having a casual interview under your belt. Just be sure you don't try to take the opportunity to sell yourself for a job when you're supposed to be there to garner information about the company. It could irritate the person who's taking the time to meet with you and end up hurting you rather than helping you.
If you have the time and financial stability to offer your services free of charge, an unpaid internship with a company you're interested in is the best way to test the waters. An internship will allow you to get a feel for the team you would be working with and really investigate the company's culture firsthand. But remember, every day at an internship is like an interview. Even if they assign you the most mundane tasks, you should knock their socks off.
If your job search has been ongoing for a while, or you are simply miserable in your current position, it's very tempting to apply to every job you can find and take the first offer you get. But, if you hope to really be happy in your new position, resist this temptation. If you jump at the first opportunity you're offered without really considering it, you could find yourself picking up the same job search again before six months have passed. Just like you have a checklist for your values, you should also have a checklist of your priorities for a new position. Is there a certain title you're aiming for? Are there benefits you can't live without? Is there a salary you want? If the job you're offered doesn't make the cut, negotiate or turn it down. Although the job outlook may seem bleak, there will be other offers.
Do What You Love
It might seem a bit obvious, but the best way to find a job you love is to, well, do what you love. If a job that matches your interests isn't quite as obvious to you, evaluate your life. What are your hobbies? What makes you smile? Do you like being outdoors? Do you love kids? Once you figure out what your interests are and what makes you happiest, you can start looking for jobs that involve those things. Have you been working as a bank teller but dreaming of perfectly frosted cupcakes? Why not take a chance and try your hand as a baker? Before opening your own bakery, you could take a job at your local grocery store bakery. If you're an outdoors enthusiast, you would be surprised to find out how many jobs allow you to work outside. A simple Internet search suggests things like a skydiving instructor or wildlife rehabilitator; even a job as an EMT allows you to be outdoors. Writers and photographers can usually work wherever they want. Simply figure out what you love to do, and your research will lead you to the right job for you.
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