When I was still at university, I had no idea what a ‘good’ job looked like. People around me spoke a lot about big paychecks and impressive company names, so when I set out to find a job, these were the things I was chasing. However, I soon realised that these things were not enough to make me feel fulfilled so I set out to change how I approached finding the right job for me.
Coming into the working world, we all face that moment where we don’t know what path we wish to pursue. Feeling uncertain is quite normal because it’s hard to know when you first start out exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. This can also make it tempting to follow the path that offers the most money or the most ‘recognition’ among family and friends.
Reaching a decision about the path that I wished to pursue was a journey for me. I found it difficult not to be influenced when I was surrounded by people who revered those who worked in the biggest companies or who earned the most money, even though I knew that most people who followed these paths never seemed happy or fulfilled. When I asked people that I knew in these positions how work was going, most of the time they would answer me with a small frown, uttering, “I’m just carrying on,” or, “It’s okay”.
These people seemed to have become satisfied with being unsatisfied and that was not something that I was willing to do.
The superficial highlights of a role, like the salary per month and name of the company, seemed like bait and I realised that I was not willing to bite. I wanted to be happy in my day-to-day so I decided to probe a bit more and ask questions about how potential jobs could help me grow on a personal and professional level. For a while, I was uncertain about what questions to ask and how to ask them but with some practice, I figured out what was important to me, and how to get that across in interviews.
The most important things to me are:
- A great company culture
- A job that has more to it than just money
- Feeling fulfilled by the work I do
A great company culture
My initial understanding about what company culture is was largely theoretical. This meant that I was rather naïve, because I thought that it only made sense that a company would provide value for their employees as their employees did for them. I soon realised, though, that company cultures vary and not every workplace believes in the same things or follows the same practices.
What is it that you do in a day that makes your day great? I only ask because there are companies out there who make their employees’ happiness a top priority. I knew that I wanted to work at a company that values their employees by making them feel like they are working with you, not against you. In my mind, it would be very difficult to work when you feel like someone who can be easily replaced. Maybe you’d like to have a supportive work structure or one that gives you full autonomy to make decisions. These are important things to think about when choosing a job.
Remember that almost 34% of your day is spent at your place of work. This is quite a big chunk of your time being awake! Being in an environment that makes you feel good for this amount of time can make a big impact on your everyday experience, and that’s not something that should be taken for granted.
We all want to be appreciated, but before we can do that we have to know what we are worth and then go out there and get what we are worth.
Get an understanding of how people interact with each other in the building
To get an idea about a company’s culture, and whether I would fit in with it, here are some things I found useful to observe when I went in for interviews:
- What’s going on in this office space? How are people interacting? Is there any particular ‘vibe’ that I can pick up on?
- Does this company have a mission statement that they follow? How much does that come up in the conversation? Do I feel like the people I am talking to are working towards the same goal? Does this goal align with what I want for my life?
- Do I feel like I can speak openly with the people interviewing me when they ask me if I have any questions? Have they made me feel comfortable to ask about big things?
A job that has more to it than just money
From reading The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma, I realised that money is not the only thing that provides fulfillment. It may be a means to an end, yes, but it shouldn’t become your sole pursuit.
While making money is a priority, because everyone wants to get to a point where it becomes insignificant and they can buy what they want whenever they want it, I believe that it shouldn’t be the highest priority. Because the only thing I was really sure I wanted was being happy in my job, I decided to take any opportunity that came my way that would allow me to invest my time in growing and discovering the paths that I really wished to pursue, even if it didn’t offer me the highest paycheck. For me, I realised that a ‘good’ job would be one that offered me work-life balance, remote working opportunities and opportunities to grow.
Get a sense about how well-rounded the job package is
To assess whether or not a role would align with what I thought of as a ‘good’ job, here are some questions I started asking in interviews:
- Are there any remote working options?
- What are your thoughts on striking a healthy work/life balance? Do you do anything to help their employees with this?
- Are there any cool perks like team bonding opportunities or company-specific swag?
- What opportunities do you provide for personal and professional growth? Do you have an education budget, for example?
Feeling fulfilled by the work I do
Most people commit so much of their life to careers that sound amazing. It can feel good when someone asks you what you do and you could feel proud telling them something that is known to be famous and quite a good job. The external validation is something that is a plus for most of us.
While some of these people thrive in these high-flying positions, there are some who reluctantly choose to follow through because they feel it may be too late to turn back and do something that they may actually enjoy doing. But if you dislike the journey that you’re on every day, you’re committing a huge chunk of your life to pursue something that does not fulfill you in any way. Imagine how much more proud you may be of yourself if you could say to yourself that you are doing exactly what you enjoy doing.
To get to this point myself, I’ve found that I needed to understand what I truly wanted to do.
This quote really inspires me: “Let where you are serve you as much as you serve it.”
I try to remember that the time we get in a day is quite precious, so choosing to spend it impressing others whilst depressing yourself is not worth it. See what you want and move towards it whilst allowing the ‘obstacles to be the path’.
Be clear on how a job aligns with what you want for yourself
Here are some things I make sure I ask at an interview to get a sense of whether the job I’m applying for would make me feel fulfilled:
- What will my day-to-day look like in this role? Will it be tightly structured or will I have more freedom?
- Do you measure employee engagement or happiness at all?
- Will I be able to have a voice here?
- How do you think about helping people? Are there mentorship structures in place?
Choosing a job may seem like the difficult part, but I’ve found that the actual difficult part is deciding whether this choice is the right one for you. Like branches on a tree, some are long and bumpy, some are short, so too your life and decisions should be. If you take anything away let it be this: Don’t be afraid to ask questions that will help you in the long run. The doubts that you feel are not bad – they are useful tools that can be used to help you understand what questions you need answered so that you can be happy.
René Chunilall is a recent university graduate who is on the path to being a polymath. He is working towards being well-versed in artificial intelligence, cyber security, software development, blogging and creating motivational content. Most recently, he has ventured into entrepreneurship as he wishes to gain momentum in building his own empire.