Think about how to find a job that you love

Michelle Singletary
Columnist October 1, 2011

For the longest time, I’ve felt blessed to earn a living doing something I love — helping people navigate their personal finance issues.

But it’s because of my work that I meet a lot of people who don’t like what they do. They complain and yet do little to change their situation. I made a promise to myself that if I ever stopped loving my work, I would quit my job. Of course, I made that promise when I was unmarried and childless, and when the unemployment rate wasn’t hovering near double digits. I’m now in the camp of get a job before you leave a job, even if you’re unhappy. (The exception is if your working conditions are causing serious psychological and or physical problems.)

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.” View Archive

Half of U.S. workers are unhappy on the job, according to Mercer, an outplacement and consulting firm. Its recent survey of 2,400 workers found that nearly one in three is seriously considering quitting. Another 21 percent aren’t about to quit but are nonetheless discontented.

So how can you find meaningful, purposeful and profitable work?

You might find the answer in Dan Miller’s “48 Days to the Work You Love” ($14.99, B&H Publishing Group). It’s my pick for this month’s Color of Money Book Club.

“I am convinced 48 days is long enough to evaluate where you are, get the advice of people you trust, decide what your best options are, create a plan, and act,” Miller writes.

He begins by addressing what work is. Ask yourself the following, he says:

●Is work that necessary evil that consumes the time between your brief periods of enjoyment on the weekends?

●Is it primarily a method of paying bills and showing responsibility?

●Is it a way to prove that your college degree was a reasonable investment?

●In thinking about retirement, do you wonder when you can stop your stupid job and start doing what you really enjoy?

● Does your job define who you are?

I wonder how many workers have truly examined how they ended up in the jobs they have. Here are some misdirected influences that lead people to make poor career choices, Miller says:

●What jobs will be in demand in the future?

●What jobs pay the most?

●What jobs are the most secure?

●What jobs provide the most status or power?

These are all important questions, but if they are the primary considerations in choosing a career, there’s a greater chance you’ll end up in a job you dislike.

What you should be asking, Miller says, is: What were you born to do? How can you contribute to others? What do you really love to do? What are the recurring themes that you are drawn to? How do you want to be remembered?

For 48 days, Miller pushes you to do a lot of self-examination.

“Eighty-five percent of the process of having confidence in one’s career direction comes from looking inward,” he writes. The other 15 percent, he adds, is applying what you then know about yourself to finding — or creating — work that fits.

For example, on Day 2 of Miller’s plan, you spend time thinking about what your work life has meant to you so far. On Day 9, you have to describe a time in your life when indecision caused you to lose an opportunity. On Day 12, you list your dreams and passions.

Every day of this journey requires you to take some action, including answering a list of questions in the countdown to work you’ll love. On Day 23, you talk to two people who are doing what you want to do.

There’s so much uncertainty in the job market that it’s understandable if you’re scared of change. But as Miller writes, “your only ‘security’ is knowing what you do well. Knowing your areas of competence will give you freedom amid corporate politics and unexpected layoffs.”

This book is not so much about career coaching with the typical résumé, cover letter and interview tips, as it is a process toward building a life plan that will bring you spiritual and financial peace.

I’ll be hosting a live online discussion about “48 Days to the Work You Love” at noon Eastern on Oct. 27 at washingtonpost.com/conversations. Miller will be joining me to answer your questions. Every month, I randomly select readers to receive a copy of the featured book, donated by the publisher. For a chance to win a copy of “48 Days to the Work You Love,” send an e-mail to colorofmoney@washpost.com with your name and address.

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Or e-mail: singletarym@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible. Please also note that comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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