You know what you DON'T want.

But where would you flourish?

There is no such job title: "Anything But This"

Recently I worked with a client who wanted to change careers, but wasn't sure what field he wanted to enter next. He could describe what he didn't want in his next role in vivid detail, but when asked what he WAS looking for, he responded that he wanted to help people somehow, working in an organization that made a difference.

Not a lot of specifics there.

When you're looking for a way out of a job that makes you unhappy, sometimes you focus so much on what you dislike about that place or those responsibilities that it's hard to articulate what kind of job - or career - would allow you to flourish.

Here are some questions to help you narrow down your interests, loosely based on the Holland Occupational Codes (also known as RIASEC codes) but with some Myers-Briggs thrown in, plus a few tweaks I've learned from working with my clients.

What type of work do you find fulfilling?

  • Would you find it more rewarding to be in a role that involves building mutually beneficial relationships with people and collaborating with a team, or would you prefer to primarily work with tools in a job that keeps you physically active, perhaps outdoors?

  • Do you get satisfaction from "bringing order to chaos" through creating and implementing improved processes, or from expressing yourself creatively in a unique, perhaps emotionally compelling way?

  • Are you drawn to observing, recording, and recognizing patterns around you or do you naturally advocate for what you believe in, finding pleasure in persuading others to support your efforts?

Look over the answers to these three questions, then see if you can identify one or two of the three that resonate most strongly with you. Most folks enjoy a work environment that incorporates two of these types of jobs, so it's OK to find that "it's a tie" between a couple of these answers.

Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert?

  • Once you've given these questions some thought, consider whether or not your energy level usually increases or decreases when you spend time socializing with others.

If you leave social events feeling energized and motivated, you may be an extrovert. If you leave these kinds of gatherings in need of quiet time to recharge your battery, you may be an introvert. If you truly find both environments equally energizing, you may be an ambivert, with a balance of introvert and extrovert features making up your personality.

What is your ideal pace?

  • Finally, think about what speed or pace you are most comfortable working in. Do you get a thrill when you are in the zone, working at top speed to squeak in just under deadline? Or do you prefer to take the time needed to make sure a project is done right, including thorough beta testing or checks for accuracy?

As you consider what environment allows you to thrive, the expected pace of work is a critical component. The ideal type of work with the perfect amount of social interaction can still make you miserable if the pace you are expected to perform is a bad match for you.

Obviously every job has hectic times along with days that are less frenetic. Just remember, this is about knowing where you flourish, not what you can tolerate if you absolutely have to.

Pulling it all together

Now that you thought through what type of work suits you best, what level of social interaction suits your personality, and what pace of work matches your work style, write out your description. It might look something like this:

I am able to flourish when collaborating with people to implement process improvements, in an environment that includes frequent social interaction, at a pace that permits a thorough and accurate end product.

Now you're getting somewhere! You can use this description to explore careers that meet your needs, roles that give you a sense of satisfaction and carry intrinsic rewards for you.

In other words, a career where you will flourish.

If you would find it helpful to work with a career coach to help you pinpoint what careers and jobs will allow YOU to flourish, drop me a note! You can sign up for my email list as well, and I'd love it if you followed me on Twitter