What Job Would Make You Happy?

Time for a change. Try this visualization exercise to figure out where you should go next with your career.

Among the most distressing facts of the Great Recession is the length of unemployment. Previously, job seekers could expect a search to last four to six weeks for every $10,000 they expected to earn. The average length of unemployment now can extend to more than seven months, more for senior job seekers and high-income earners. Executives whose industries have been hit especially hard face even greater periods out of work or may never work in their fields again.

So, it’s fair to ask the question: “At what point is it time to start considering a different line of work?”

Don’t get me wrong: If you’re fully engaged in what feels like a fruitful job search, please stay with it. But what if you’re not? What if your contacts and connections have dried up and you haven’t had an active lead in far too long? What if you’ve hit a permanent dead end?

Sure, Napoleon Hill said, “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” But maybe your next step has less to do with perseverance than reinvention. Maybe it’s time to take what you already know and can do and apply it in an entirely new way.

Your awesome day

Even if you’re just wondering what other type of work you might do, it’s not a bad idea to think things through a bit. So here are a few ideas to help get you started:

    • Imagine your ideal workday. It’s likely someone’s suggested this to you already and you gave it lip service or blew it off entirely. This time, give it a try. Take a morning and go somewhere peaceful, affirming and inspirational. Wear comfortable clothes. Bring a small snack, something to drink, and pen and paper. (Leave your technology at home.) Now, start to sketch out your perfect day at work.
      • Consider the place: Do you prefer working in an office building, a home office or on the road? What does your Ideal Workplace look like? What colors do you see? What textures? What’s the “feel” of the place — literally and figuratively? Tempo-wise, is the environment fast-paced, formal or more relaxed? Ask all your senses for input.
      • Consider the people: Who else do you imagine working with you? What are they like? What’s important to them about what they do? For what do they rely on you? Think about the questions for which your colleagues might turn to you. Imagine the meetings and projects they‘d want you to lead. Who’s calling and e-mailing you? What are they hoping you can do for them? What value-add do they know you can provide?
      • Consider the clock: Trace your ideal day. How does it start? What time are you getting out of bed? What are the first five things you do in the morning? Imagine lunchtime. Are you in a cafeteria, nearby restaurant or at your desk? What does the afternoon look like? At the end of the day, what did you achieve? What made the day totally worthwhile for you? What’s on tap for tomorrow?
      • Consider your thoughts: Write down any notes you want to remember at this point and then take a short break. Enjoy your snack to cleanse your palate. Stretch your body; take a few deep breaths.

(You might find it helpful to start at the opposite end of the process and begin by identifying the things that would not be part of your ideal day. With that all out of the way, what is ideal often emerges more readily.)

  • Imagine your ideal work week. Returning to your imagination, string five (or six) of your Ideal Workdays together into a full ideal work week. How does it feel? What’s missing? What, if anything, would make Thursday as compelling as … Tuesday? What specific tasks and responsibilities are essential for you? Don’t overthink it; don’t worry about labels or titles. Just relax into your imagination and let it take you wherever it wants.

Take note of your notes

Reflect on whatever insights, discoveries and realizations these ideal scenarios prompted. Using the following chart:

  • List out the four or five core duties of your absolutely ideal job;
  • Identify two or three accomplishments from previous jobs that speak directly to your familiarity with each of the core duties you listed;
  • Assess the match/fit (high/medium/low) between those accomplishments and your core duties. Pay particular attention to the medium and low ratings – you may even want to check earlier versions of your resume for stronger, more compelling, accomplishments to cite.


Assessing the Match/Fit Between My Prior Accomplishments and the Core Duties of My Absolutely Ideal Job
Core Duties of Your Absolutely Ideal Job Prior Accomplishments Match/Fit
1. a) H M L
b) H M L
c) H M L
2. a) H M L
b) H M L
c) H M L
3. a) H M L
b) H M L
c) H M L
4. a) H M L
b) H M L
c) H M L
5. a) H M L
b) H M L
c) H M L
© 2010, GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“What’s Next?” is what’s next

Based on your assessment, what do you see now as your next steps? Is it time to pursue your ideal job? Is it time to renew your efforts in your current job search? Is it time to repeat these exercises and see what else percolates for you?

Give yourself permission to think more freely about what’s next for you and find out.

Barry Zweibel, MBA, MCC, president of GottaGettaCoach! Inc., is a noted executive coach, leadership consultant and master certified life coach. He engages smart, capable executives in deeply meaningful conversations about their personal growth and professional development. For more information, or to schedule an exploratory coaching conversation with Barry, visit www.ggci.com/life-coaching or call (847) 291-9735.