Maybe it’s a misleading article title because I should start out by acknowledging there’s no such thing as the perfect job. At least, there’s no one-size-fits-all perfect job. The perfect job is different things to different people.
Some might think it doesn’t get any better than being a beer taster. Since beer makes me gag, I can’t think of anything worse.
On the other hand, I can’t imagine anything much more wonderful than being a commissioning fiction editor for HarperCollins or Pan Macmillan. My father, though, couldn’t even make it through my first novel without falling asleep (an indictment on his reading ability, I’m assured, not the quality of the text – the only novel he’s ever read through to the end is First Blood) so he no doubt would disagree.
As someone currently contemplating a career change, although not exactly sure what I want my next career to be (unless, of course, HarperCollins or Pan Macmillan come calling), it is becoming apparent that identifying the perfect job is more difficult than we might initially anticipate.
In fact, sometimes it’s easier to identify what we don’t want and then work backwards from there. So here’s a few options. Choose one in each category and when you get to the end, the options you have chosen might just be pointing you towards where you should be heading.
Fun vs Serious
It sounds like a silly choice but while some people thrive under the pressure of serious responsibility, others would rather have an eye examination performed with a hot poker. Some would just rather enjoy their time at work without being relied on for life-changing support. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because a job is fun that it doesn’t require hard work.
Fun options: clown, face painter, comedian
Serious options: funeral director, coroner, doctor
Home vs Local vs Commuting vs Relocating
While I’ve never relocated for work, having worked in the relocation industry has demonstrated that it is an almost unavoidable stressor, no matter the level of support offered. I have, however, experienced the long commute, the medium commute, the local commute and working from home.
Working from home has multiple benefits: no transportation costs, no time costs, working hours you choose. But it is also socially isolating and sometimes nothing can compensate for being in the same room as your colleagues in order to achieve your goals.
The long commute can give you uninterrupted time away from family and work (rare these days), the medium commute tends to be long enough to read a book but short enough not to resent it.
But the local commute is my preferred option. When I stopped working in the city and took a job in the suburb I lived in, I suddenly had an extra two hours in my day to myself. Oh, the possibilities!
Traditional vs New Industries
There will always be a requirement for traditional industries – somebody has to grow the food, somebody has to enforce the law, somebody has to put out the fires. But new and exciting industries are popping up all the time these days and some haven’t even been discovered yet.
Traditional options: farmer, police officer, firefighter
New industry options: IT, research and development, social media
More Money vs Less Money
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Who, in their right mind, chooses less money when more money is on the table? It might come as a surprise that there are plenty who do just that. As long as you’re earning enough to cover the bills, then a less-money, low-stress option might be exactly what you need. Many of the feel-good employment opportunities helping out others are lower paid.
On the other hand, a more-money, short-term option might be a means to an end. At the height of the mining boom, when salaries were ridiculously good, plenty of people headed to remote areas on a temporary basis to ensure their financial futures.
More money options: professional sportsperson, business owner, share trader
Less money options: charity worker, volunteer, PhD candidate
Indoor vs Outdoor
Some people find the idea of being confined indoors for eight hours every day torturous. Others feel similarly about spending all their time outside. Personally, I fall into the latter category and while my sedentary work preference will probably kill me in the end, I don’t cope well with extremes of temperature or physical work that doesn’t challenge my mind. For those who don’t faint in the heat and enjoy labouring, perhaps the outdoors is the option for you.
Indoor options: office worker, retail worker, radiologist
Outdoor options: park ranger, tradie, environmental health officer
Lead vs Support
In any kind of business, there are generally two main types of roles. The first is about the big picture: having the idea in the first place, getting the funding and feeling committed enough about it to pursue it. The second is about the details, knowing how to accomplish the little things (like running the office, arranging travel and accommodation, organising projects) in order for the big picture to be achieved.
Some people will never be leaders and that’s okay. The ratio of leaders to followers necessarily needs to be small. Some people will never be support staff and that’s okay, too. Details aren’t everybody’s strong suit. Identifying which category your skillset sees you falling into, however, is crucial. Because leaders should never be support staff – it’s a disaster waiting to happen. And while support people can build up to become leaders, it’s important to recognise that an entirely different set of skills is required. If you can’t delegate, then you can’t lead, because you can’t do it all yourself.
Lead options: management, politician, entrepreneur
Support options: editor, personal assistant, secretary
Specialist vs General
Specialist options tend to require a lot of investment in your career – intensive upfront studies and significant ongoing training to remain a specialist. The specialisation can limit other career options in the future but it can also make you extremely sought after in your specialist field.
General options can involve shorter upfront studies and quicker entry into the workforce. So while it might seem strange, a generalist can progress further in their career more quickly with fewer debts. The transferability of general skills can also make changing industries much more simple.
Specialist options: doctor, lawyer, scientist
General options: payroll, HR, accountant
Team vs Solitary
The larger the group of people you work with, the more likely you are to come in contact with someone whose personality will conflict with your own. Some people deal with personality conflicts better than others. Some people have that enviable quality of being able to get along with everybody. And some people just prefer sociable working environments and working towards team goals so manage to figure out a way of minimising those conflicts.
However, some pursuits lend themselves to working alone and some personality types achieve more without the distraction of other people. That may mean working from home or taking on a role that is not part of a team within the business or simply closing the door to your office (if you’re lucky enough to have one).
Team options: call centre worker, teacher, defence forces
Solitary options: writer, artist, in-house legal counsel
Creative vs Repetitive
Not everyone who has a job needs it to provide fulfilment in their life. For those people, they may be happy with repetitive tasks. Once you know how to do a particular thing, you can get very good at it and for some, their satisfaction may be in the achievement of this same task over and over.
For others, variety and creativity can be essential to maintaining interest. Boredom can be a real motivation killer at work, regardless of how much you’re earning or how much you enjoy the company of your colleagues.
Creative options: journalism, advertising, marketing
Repetitive options: data entry, reception, market research
Internal vs External
The general public, and potential contact with it, can lead to very diverse reactions in employees. If you’re anything like me, dealing with the general public is a bit scary, especially because the customer isn’t always right (no matter how much we try to convince ourselves as a mantra for ensuring good customer service). The lack of common sense, intelligence and good manners that can sometimes be demonstrated by the general public is enough to make me tear my hair out. Which is no doubt the reason I’ve had a succession of jobs in which I primarily deal with my internal colleagues.
However, cutting yourself off from the general public means limiting yourself from meeting some terrific people and developing the networks that can be so important in creating the career you ultimately end up in.
Internal options: quality, bid management, business analyst
External options: customer service, sales, taxi driver
So my selections are:
*More money (unless less money can lead to happiness, in which case, less money)
Which in combination make me think that my current LinkedIn job title of Writer and Editor is exactly what I’m meant to be doing. All I need now is the next company willing to pay me for it…
*First published on LinkedIn 22 June 2015