How to find your perfect career – exercises to follow

Are you in your perfect career, or does every day drag? Follow our simple exercises to identify your true passions and create a plan to find your ideal job.

Work is more than just what we do to earn money – it is where we spend most of our waking hours for a large chunk of our life. It’s also how we impact the world around us, and is a significant part of our identity.

Just think how often “What do you do?” comes up in conversation. Also think how we often answer that question. We don’t say, “I do economics”, we say “I AM economist”. What we do is a big part of who we are. And if you are in an industry or role that is not a natural fit for you, what does this mean? You are something you don’t want to be.

So it’s important to ensure that you are doing something you enjoy, fits your values and that you are good at. This helps boost your self-esteem, ensures you enjoy what you do, and keeps you keen to learn and grow. It also keeps you emotionally healthy and protects against career burnout

Shockingly, according to a poll by Gallup, an estimated 85% of people are unhappy in their jobs. And the longer we stay in any situation, the harder it is to make a change. We get used to it, assume it’s the only choice we have, and fall victim to sunk cost fallacy mindset. 

We want to inspire you to believe that you are entitled to find a job you love, motivate you to make a change, and hopefully get you on the path to doing so with some exercises you can go away and do. 

What is the ‘perfect career?

But first, how do you know if you have the perfect career for you? The ideal job is unique to us all; it’s something that fits our natural interests, character and skills. It’s also something that enables us to achieve our professional and personal goals.  

But there are some common elements that we find in many jobs in which people are fulfilled and happy. Here are some signs that indicate you could be in your perfect job:

  • You don’t get the Sunday blues
  • You don’t clock watch during your working day
  • You enjoy working with your colleagues
  • You feel challenged by your work – in a good way
  • You have a healthy work-life balance
  • You’re happy, even excited to talk about your work
  • You’re not afraid to take risks and make mistakes
  • You feel comfortable approaching your employer or manager with concerns
  • You feel appreciated and supported

So what do you do if you don’t enjoy your work? Or even if you feel like you made a mistake pursuing your career choices? And how can you work out what is the RIGHT job for you?

To help you, we’re going to take you through a series of exercises. At the end, we’ll also share how you can get a PDF workbook to give you even more assistance.

Start off with your childhood

In order to find out what career might be right for you now and in your future, we need to start by looking back. And specifically, at your childhood.

Why? Because when we are young, we are instinctively drawn to activities that fit our interests and skills. We do things because they feel good to us. But as we get older, we start choosing things for other reasons: what our friends are doing, what’s socially acceptable, what might look good on a CV, or help our education. Even things that please others, such as our parents. 

Over time, it is easy to become disconnected from what we innately love. But the clue to our perfect career is in those very activities. Imagine if you could spend every day doing something you loved – and get paid for it!

That is what happens when you pursue a career that is aligned with your natural interests and talents, and that’s what we want to help you identify. 

So ask yourself these questions: 

  • What did you want to be when you were a child?
  • What were your dreams? 
  • What games or activities did you love doing?
  • What were your favourite subjects at school?

Don’t feel like you need to hurry this exercise. Getting back in touch with your inner child should be fun, so give yourself a few days for memories to come back to you. It might be a long time ago, or you may need to even speak to people who knew you when you were younger to unlock buried memories.

Look for patterns

Once you’ve made a list of what you used to do and enjoy as a child, look for any patterns. For example, were you are always pursuing creative projects? Were you drawing, painting, writing, building? Were you drawn to physical outdoor adventures? Were you obsessed with your toy science kit?

Look for patterns of interest, but don’t be too literal. Try to feel what the underlying connection between things is. For example, you might have loved building dens, baking and writing stories. At face value these are very different activities, but the common thread might have been creativity; you might have enjoyed them because you were creating something from your imagination.

Once you have noted any patterns of interest, consider whether they feature in your career now or not. And if not, whether you would like them to. 

If so, write down five ideas for ways you can include these activities or interests in your life to feel more fulfilled. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon your career and start from scratch now. Instead, you might start off by pursuing them in your personal life, to see if you still enjoy them and build your confidence and experience in order to plan your next step. 

Small positive steps in the right direction will always take you further than big leaps of progress, fuelled by an energy you can’t sustain.

So don’t feel you need to completely upend your life with your new discovery; this can be scary and impractical. Instead find small steps you can take that you can build on over time as you work out how you want to change your life. For some people just being more fulfilled in their personal life is enough for them to enjoy their existing career more.

Look at where you are now

With this in mind, consider where you are now in your life in relation to what you have discovered. Ask yourself:

  • How do you feel about your life right now? 
  • How would you like to feel about your life? 
  • What needs to change for this to happen? 

When you have identified what needs to change, write up to five ideas for point. They don’t all need to be acted on, but by listing actions you take your insights one step on from theory, and start to see how you can actually start to make progress to bring them to reality. 

What skills are you using?

Now we’re going to return to the present day. We’ve explored the kind of activities you were drawn to as a child, now it’s time to turn our attention to the activities you’re actually doing in your job. 

To do this, list 10 skills you use in your career or work then rate them 1-10 in terms of how much you enjoy them. What are your top five skills from the list? And your bottom five?

Think about these skills and consider ways you can do more of the ones you like and less of the ones you don’t. For example, can you outsource or stop doing some of the tasks you don’t like, or start taking on more projects that involve the skills you do enjoy?

It’s not necessarily about changing jobs or careers completely – at least not yet. Sometimes just small tweaks to the job we are in can make a big difference to what we do and how we feel. And in time, these small, consecutive changes can lead to more profound decisions and changes if that is right for you.  

How satisfied are you?

It’s also important to honestly assess how happy we are about where we are right now. It’s easy to slide into complacency without being aware that we have the right or ability to actually enjoy what we do. 

So ask yourself these questions: 

  • How satisfied are you with your career right now?
  • How satisfied would you like to be?
  • What does success mean to you? (Write down five words.)

Now, in light of those answers and the learnings gained from the other exercises, ask yourself what you need to do to be more satisfied or successful. Please make this about YOU and not what you think is the right thing for aspire to. 

‘Success’ means something different to all of us, and if you want to find your dream career, you need to pursue your version of success, not what the media may sell to us, or expectations placed on us by others. 

Write five ideas for things you can do, or changes you can make in order to be more successful on your terms. Then turn these ideas into an action plan. And remember! Small steps in the right direction are more likely to pay off than grand plans that might be daunting to put in place. 

What to do with your insights

We hope you have found that useful. Please do go away and complete these exercise. This process does work, but you need to follow it to reap the rewards. 

And to help you do so, we have produced a special Career Audit Workbook. This is a printable PDF that takes you through all these questions and more. You just complete each section in turn, and build your action plan. 

The Career Audit Workbook is just £19 but is priceless if it helps you identify what you should be dong and helps you craft a plan to escape a job you hate, and find your true calling. 

How I found my perfect career

When I was a child, I loved anything creative. Drawing, imaginative play, writing stories, and making Blue Peter models from washing up bottles! And I was always clear that my career needed to be fun and creative too.

However, I had grown up in a family in which people didn’t do jobs they loved; they worked at what they could to earn money. So I had no career template to follow, or anyone to ask for advice.

I studied fine art at university, but dropped out after the second year and the only work I could get was office admin. I was miserable and knew I needed to find something creative but I also knew I’d never find that in my small town. So, when I was 23, I bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong and started a new life there.

At first I could only find the same kind of work as that was my only experience, but at least I was working for a magazine, so my workplace was fun and creative, even if my actual job wasn’t.

Then, one Saturday I accompanied my then-boyfriend into his workplace to collect something. He worked in the creative department of am international ad agency, and it immediately felt like home. I started looking at the work the writers were doing and realised that I had finally found The One, work wise. I wanted to be a copywriter.

The only problem was, I didn’t have the skills or qualifications to be a copywriter. And advertising is a highly competitive industry. But a fire had been lit under me, so I looked up the numbers of 50 international ad agencies in Hong Kong, called them and got the names and fax numbers (this was the 1990s!) of their creative directors.

Then I sent them all a fax with my CV and a letter. A week later I had planned to call them all to follow up and see if there were any opportunities.

Before that though, I heard that Ogilvy were looking for a copywriter, so I called the Executive Creative Director and secured an interview. The interview didn’t go well at first; I realised that he’d thought I was experienced and wasn’t looking for a complete beginner. But I enthused about how I know I’d be good at the job and was a fast learner. Probably to get rid of me as much as anything else, he agreed to set me a writing test and ended the interview.

Luckily for me, I aced the writing test and secured the job – and went on to enjoy a 25-year career as an award-winning copywriter in both Hong Kong and London. It was indeed my perfect career.

I’m telling you this in the hope that it might inspire you. If I can get a job as a copywriter for one of the world’s top advertising agencies without any experience or qualifications, then you can dare hope that there’s a chance for you to do what you love too, with determination, self-belief and hard work. And if you don’t try, you’ll never know what you can achieve!