It IS possible to have both paycheck and satisfying work. In fact, it’s optimal. Experts agree: You deliver the most value to an organization when you do what you love.

Doesn’t it make sense for you to do work that is suited to your personality, values, preferences, and skills? That’s what I call your “right fit work.”

The ideal goal of a job search is to find work where you are at least 60% satisfied and hopefully, 75-80%. While there probably always will be some portion you don’t love, it’s possible to be mostly satisfied. Most people seem to want that. I know I do!

I had work that was immensely satisfying for more than a decade, where I liked getting up in the morning and was excited to go to work. My attitude was “oh, goody! I get to go to work!” And many of my staff felt the same way – they told me and their colleagues. They also told me when they weren’t happy…and I worked with them to improve their satisfaction. Perhaps the best indicator that I and my team were doing a good job came from people who left and then regretted it. They thought they could find a better workplace, but they could not. I think they wanted to be 100% happy, not realizing that 80% job satisfaction is pretty darn great. I believe a little dissatisfaction is good for the soul, as it keeps us striving to improve our situation, our attitudes, our skills, our performance, our relationships.

How did I find such a job, where I was free to shape a culture, to create a place where I wanted to go to work, to do work that had a huge social impact, and that paid pretty well?

I focused. I developed my own “must have list” and then I looked for work that met my criteria. I got specific. I was honest with myself about what I wanted, and didn’t talk myself into jobs that weren’t a “right fit” for me.

From my experience and that of many others, I’ve learned that when you focus specifically on the work you want to do, that’s what you’ll get. Conversely, if you don’t focus, you can’t get what you want. It’s like Yogi Berra says:

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

If you are applying for jobs, targeted search is best way to find right job for you. With a goal and a focus, it’s possible to create a plan to get you from where you are now and where you want to go.

Some people wonder if they can afford to narrow their job search focus to what they really want. I think they can’t afford NOT to focus their attention on the right job fit.

Think of building a house, or taking a trip. You need a picture of the house you want, and a destination in mind. Then you can put together the blueprint to construct that desired house or directions to reach your intended goal. Without the original intention, it’s impossible to figure out how to get there from here. Otherwise, you are simply starting to build with no idea of what the end product should look like. And perhaps you’ll end up with something structurally unsound or ugly. Or you start driving and hope you’ll end up somewhere cool, and instead end up in the industrial part of town where there are no restaurants and it feels a little creepy when it starts to get dark.

It’s the same thing with a job search. By envisioning exactly what you want to do, you establish a goal and an intention toward which you can work. With a destination, you can map out a plan for getting from where you are to where you want to be.

Finding your “right fit work” involves getting to know yourself better. When you know what you like to do, it’s easier to find jobs that allow you to do what you like to do. Similarly, you can find a job in which you’ll be happy once you’re aware of the situations, culture, type of organizations, and roles toward which you naturally and repeatedly gravitate. We all have patterns in our lives; the key is asking yourself the right questions in order to identify those patterns. Once we know our patterns, we can stop fighting them and instead work with them.

We all have unique talents and abilities with which we were born, and skills we have developed throughout our lives – at home, in school, in the workplace. At base, it is our talents that determine whether we will be happy at work. If we’re using our talents, we will be much happier. If we’re not using our talents, it’s a bit like swimming against the current and hoping to reach our destination – frustrating and likely to keep us stuck in the same place.

You’ll find that every skill you’ve learned will come in handy in your new work – everything you’ve done so far is the foundation for this next step in your life. Many skills are transferable to another field and will get you started. Keep an open mind about possibilities.

Such a job search can take more time than you have at the moment, because you may realize you need to get additional training or education, or that you need to make a higher salary for some period of time to save enough to be able to afford a career switch.

That doesn’t mean you have to abandon pursuing your dreams. You simply operate on a “dual track” where you look for a job that meets a major percentage of your “must have list” for a satisfying job, and you begin activities that will eventually result in your doing your dream work.

Get familiar with who you REALLY are, instead of trying to impress an interviewer or outwit an assessment given by an employer. Be who you are from the start and you will land the right job. Pretend to be someone else and you’ll be miserable in your new job – or you’ll be found out and fired.

When you know what you want to do, it’s easier to identify potential job opportunities. Most of the time, opportunities appear on-line and through networking meetings. Use your “Must Have List” to identify your top priorities and to form your “intention” about your desired work.

Then begin networking. It’s not complicated when you know what you want to do, and have a short description of your ideal work and the talents and abilities you want to use at work. Networking is the chief mechanism people use to get their dream jobs. Use your “Must Have List” to evaluate opportunities and see if it’s worth applying for the job.

When you know yourself and the conditions under which you do your best work, it’s easier to be confident in an interview. Your “Must Have List” also provides you with the basis for some questions to the employer during an interview. You’re interviewing the employer, to see if the job and company do in fact meet your criteria for “right fit work.”

Knowing your bottom lines makes it possible to accept jobs that don’t meet all your criteria, without resentment. And if you have to take a job that is less than 50% satisfying, you know why you’re doing so (to pay the bills!), that it’s a temporary measure, that somehow it fits into your long-term plan and goal, and that you can continue searching for your “right fit work.”