How to find the right job fit
Match Your Personality to Your Project
When I was a public interest career counselor at the University of Michigan Law School I spoke to many students and lawyers who were unhappy with their jobs but felt stuck. One of the most frequent questions I got – from students and lawyers alike – was: “I really don’t know what I want to do. How do I find the right job?”
The secret to job satisfaction is simple: Find a job that will allow you to use your talents frequently and that will allow you to express your values to some degree.
Let’s be clear. A skill is not necessarily a talent. A skill is something we are good at. A talent is a skill we enjoy using. Let me illustrate. I have had jobs in which I wrote reports, managed people, and prepared budgets. These are skills I had, but I did not particularly enjoy using them. However, when I was a trial lawyer in New York City I used skills I enjoyed exercising: counseling clients, arguing before judges and juries, devising defense theories, and the like. These are skills I enjoy using. Skills you enjoy using are your talents.
When I look back on my job history – appellate lawyer, trial lawyer, college dean, and program manager I realize that the job that gave me the most satisfaction – trial lawyer—was the one in which I used my talents most frequently. The one I liked least– program manager- was the one in which I used my talents relatively infrequently.
How does one determine one’s talents? Try this thought experiment: Recall a project – work related or extracurricular – that gave you a deep sense of satisfaction. This could be an episode from your current job or some project in your past that gave you an experience where you felt fully engaged and time seemed to fly. Now ask yourself: what skills was I using during the experience? Those skills are your talents.
A satisfying job is not only one in which you use your talents. It also should be one which accords with your personal values. If you love public speaking, you will not be happy in a job that allows you to do lots of public speaking but requires you to deliver a message that is divorced from your values. Your values are your core beliefs. How do you wish to be remembered? It’s a bit corny, but what do you want written on your tombstone?
How does one determine one’s values? One quick tip: who do you admire? Is it a particular family member? An historical figure? A fictional character? After identifying the person ask you self: why do I admire this person?
In my case I greatly admire Abraham Lincoln. He was a lawyer, he stood up for some basic values of human dignity, and he helped the U.S. get through its greatest crisis. I will never be an Abraham Lincoln, but if I can even in a tiny way emulate some of his characteristics I will feel that I am doing something that accords with my values.