Always do your very best in your job, but if you don’t like what you’re doing enough that you would do it for free, quit. (This may sound harsh, but it is actually mentally liberating.) I mean it – just quit!
Starting your own business or finding a new job can be the hardest thing you ever do, but a few words of wisdom never go astray. I am not a huge fan of quotes and I do my very best to remind our coaches to avoid clichéd inspirational quotes at any cost. But this one I like:
“If money is the main reason for the job, then quit.”
I heard this quote during a networking event in 2012. The ‘quit’ part of the quote hit me like a bolt of lightning. Of course I had heard similar advice before, such as “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” bla bla bla… But this one was different. Would I do my job for free? That is a pretty high standard. I enjoyed the job I had. Everything has ups and downs, but generally my job was ok. I was doing work that I enjoyed, working with tonnes of people, cool gadgets and technology and in my chosen field of sales & marketing. It provided enough of a challenge and the company I worked for was doing ok. But, when I heard the quote, I knew that I wouldn’t do it for FREE.
Did I love my job enough that I would do it for free? I figured that if I was actually willing to do it for free, then that would be a good start. So I started learning more about my main clients, which were mostly in human resources and recruiting, and conducting some pretty in-depth analyses about their work. It wasn’t what I wanted. I started looking deeper into recruiting software and HR solution and service providers and signed up to various accounts, and… it just wasn’t it. I even did more research and invested in some ATS recruiting software. No.
I ended up coming back to what I liked to do the most: helping people and helping small and medium companies grow with the right people. This time I wanted to grow something scalable – with national or international scope. I started attending recruitment and HR tech events, reading everything topical online, buying books, and I ended up discovering something I love doing enough that I’d do it for free – and something that I do really well. I am very good at working in the space between technology and people. I ended up leaving my profession to work on these things full-time.
During this process of self-discovery I realised that there are two fundamental reasons to only work in a job that you would do for free.
This is the thing that most people kind of understand without much explanation. Maybe it is because we have all had days, or maybe even weeks or years…. where we HATE waking up and going to work. Most of the clients I speak to here at TheJobSearchCoach initially think that this means that they should work in video game development, surfing, or some other recreational activity that they enjoy. This is not what I am referring to, it actually blocks one’s ability to discover what they love.
I recommend that a great way to discover what you would do for free is to (re)discover what you loved doing when you were a teenager. Why? As teenagers most of us were a bit innocent, developing our own personality and growing up but not old enough to get distracted by things such as making more money, working in a prestigious career, etc…
So what did I love doing when I was a teenager? I loved playing soccer. (I know… a good German stereotype) But, I explored what it really was that I loved about soccer.
I loved working at being the best goalkeeper or the best player on the team. I loved leading the team. I loved playing creatively and doing the unexpected. I loved having fun with my team and I really enjoyed quickly finding resourceful solutions to problems on the field and planning tactics with my team members before the game to get an advantage. I loved going to practice and constantly improving, no matter how shitty the weather was or how far I had to travel. Now, I do the same things that I loved when I was a teenager but I do them with experienced mature people and businesses.
Working in my own business has led me to discover that we should really strive to only work at something that we would do for free because we will have natural inclination and motivation to achieve human dexterity – or getting better and better at something that really matters to us.
What matters to me is helping people to find work and employers to find real talent. I was not born a master or expert. I developed my own type dexterity. It is something that I found in my process of discovery. For example, when I was in Uni I had to take up administration as part of my MBA program. I didn’t care about administration and I took the subject just for the grades. I don’t remember much from that time but I enjoyed Uni and I earned a MBA because I enjoyed the theory and enjoyed learning. I never had to worry about the grades because I was mastering the material. I was hands on, I was involved and I loved it.
But dexterity does not refer to perfect execution and knowledge. I believe that we can only pursue real dexterity, and maybe even a level of mastery of things that we do, based on internalised motivation. However, you don’t need to be 100% motivated all the time (indeed, I don’t think anyone could be). I believe that you can actually achieve a sufficient level of talent and skill if you have at least 60% internal motivation for your job or profession. And, if you have that level of true motivation, then your customers and/or your employer will love you.
So how about you? What would you do for free? If you think you can, then you owe it to yourself to find out what it is, sort yourself out and then quit your job so you can do it. You will enjoy your work much more, you’ll be happier and you will become an expert in your field.
Just remember to hunt wisely!