I received this comment and question the other day from a woman who is very unhappy with her current job and wants to know what she should do.

Dear Julie,
I have been working in management consulting industry for 5 years now and have been unhappy in it more less since I started. I decided to take a job in this direction precisely because I wasn’t sure what my best job would be and expected the consulting industry to provide me with many different project experiences which should bring me closer to the perfect job. The experience ended up revolving around similar clients and business areas and in terms of finding my perfect job – I am just where I started. The fact that I am not at all passionate about what I do is starting to make me unhappy and depressed and I am starting to take that out on my boyfriend and friends. I would like to change something but how do I find the job that is right for me? I am scared to take the step of finally leaving the current job to be able to focus on doing some searching. And I do not know where to start…
Your advice would be much appreciated.. Thank you.

Lina, my first suggestion is to keep your current job. There is plenty of work you can do right now that will lead you toward the right job for you. If you’ve read much of my blog, you know that I advocate getting to know yourself FIRST.

Getting to know yourself can be done outside of work hours. You have plenty of material to work with: your current job, your college and high school experiences, any part-time work you’ve had, your hobbies, the books you read, the news stories to which you are drawn, the magazines you read.

The fact that you are taking steps toward a “right fit” job may do one or both of two things: give you hope and make the current job tolerable, and/or make you even more sick of the work you currently do. Both reactions are normal. Becoming more frustrated with your current job simply means you’re stirring things up, and reaffirming what you DON’T like.

Knowing what we don’t like is the first part of the work. The second part is starting to know what we DO like to do. That’s the point of getting to know yourself. And often, that is far more difficult to identify.

To help you identify what you love to do, what you would love to do again, and in what kind of environment and workplace, I’ve put together a workbook based on this blog and real-life experience with people seeking their right fit. If you leave me your e-mail address, I’ll send it to you and you can go through the various questionnaires.

The purpose is to come up with two things: your Must Have List for what will allow you to happily do your best work; and your Core Value Proposition, what you specifically and distinctly have to offer an employer or client. From those two things, you can craft the marketing materials you need to convey your value to employers and land your “right fit” job – specifically your resume, cover letters, and interview information. You will answer questions and ask questions at interviews, because you are not desperate – you are looking for the “right fit” for you, just as the employer is looking for a “right fit” for their position.

It’s important to be honest with ourselves, and accept who we are. There’s a lot of “shoulds” surrounding work – I “should” do what my parents want me to do or I “should” like this work because other people do. If you can, stop “shoulding” on yourself and instead look clearly at what “is” rather than what is “supposed to be.”

Other factors can and do complicate searches for “right fit” work. Perhaps you are attached to the money you make or the prestige of the position you now hold. It’s all OK right now. These are all factors that will go into your decision-making process.

There is no one right way or right time frame to get to your “right fit” job. Some people take a few months, others take a few years, and others take some time in-between. I’ve seen people find their “right fit” job the moment they identify what they want to do, and seen other people get a job that’s a step or two closer to their dream work.

One woman has taken 18 months to identify the general field she wants to pursue and narrow it down from design to “not interior design.” Now a lawyer working in financial services, she realized she needed to learn about the design field. So she’s taking classes and gaining skills and experience – all of which are helping her see what direction she wants to pursue in the design field. I call this a “dual path” where she has kept her “day job” and is pursuing her dreams at night and on weekends.

I strongly advocate finding a buddy or coach who can help you get to know yourself, help you interpret the information you’ll be gathering about yourself. It usually is not your significant other nor a family member. They are too invested in you being OK to really be helpful and objective. And usually we are too impatient with ourselves and too afraid to respond well to their prodding and questioning.

The fact that you are asking the question means you are already on the path to finding your right fit work. I hope this blog and my response can help you achieve your goal! Please let me know how else I can help.