how do I choose my career?

how do I choose my career?
Discover Your True Purpose With This Simple Career Diagnostic Tool

Introducing Ikigai: A Reason For Being

We’re in the middle of a full-blown Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis, according to the research-based, global performance-management consulting company, Gallup. In a recent report, they revealed that only 15% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are enthusiastic about their work. So why do the remaining 85% of full-time workers around the world feel disengaged or downright hate their jobs?

Over the past decade, I’ve approached my career as an iterative process—with every subsequent job, I sought a little more of what I liked in my previous role, and little less of what I didn’t like. From the Canadian Armed Forces to Sony Music Entertainment, from the University of Toronto to Ryerson University—my career moves were governed by this rule. It was a helpful heuristic approach, but its outlook was too limited for my liking.

Then one day, I discovered the Ikigai framework, a simple and elegant solution for determining where you are in your career (in relation to your true calling) and uncovering what pivots to make based on a more long-term outlook.

how do I choose my career?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being.” A reason to jump out of bed each morning. A reason to be pumped for Monday mornings instead of dreading them.

Over the latter half of my career, I’ve systematically answered questions associated with each of the Ikigai framework’s four sections (let’s call them “circles”) in order to discover my own reason for being:

  1. What You Love
  2. What The World Needs
  3. What You Can Be Paid For
  4. What You Are Good At

Below are the questions for you to answer. Depending on what stage of life you’re at (studying, working, etc.) you can modify these questions to suit your current configuration of priorities.

What You Love
  • Is what you’re doing something you’re truly passionate about?
  • Are you emotionally connected to the result of your work?
  • If you weren’t concerned about money, would you still do what you’re doing?
What The World Needs
  • Are you helping to solve an actual problem?
  • Is the marketplace demanding what you have to offer?
  • Will this work still be needed 10 years from now?
What You Can Be Paid For
  • Lately, have you been paid for what you do?
  • Are you already making a good living doing what it is that you’re doing?
  • Is there a healthy amount of competition in your industry?
What Are You Good At
  • Are you useful?
  • Are you among the best in your workplace/community at this?
  • With some more education and experience, could you master what you do?

The list above isn’t meant to be sequential by any means. You can tackle this framework from any angle, and even from multiple angles at once. In fact, I went about it in the total reverse order when it came to my career: I was good at marketing, I started getting paid for it, I discovered that the education space needed my skills, and over time I fell in love with the intersection of marketing & education.

These are the 4 steps that you need to follow to figure out your Ikigai, your reason for being:

  1. Answer all of the 12 questions. The answer to each one should be either YES or NO.
  2. If you’ve answered affirmatively to all 3 questions within a circle (ie. What You Love, etc.), seal your answers and keep on doing what you’re doing.
  3. Spend your days focusing on sealing in all of the other circles. Do the work that will make all answers in all circles YES. And make your next career choices by pivoting on the locked circles.
  4. Once you answer YES to all 12 questions, congratulations! You’ve completely discovered your reason for being— your Ikigai.

Over a 50-year career, you’ll spend 92,100 hours at work — roughly 35% of your total waking hours, to be exact. That’s a lot of time…or is it?

You owe it to yourself to discover your reason for being. It might take years, even decades. And that’s okay—this is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on finding your intrinsic motivation for work. Focus on what makes you feel engaged and happy. The right job can create a state of mind that can transform your life.

Once you discover your Ikigai, you’ll realize just how little 92,100 hours actually is.