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Work Happy. 7 Surprising Strategies to Find a Job That Makes You Happy

by Rahul Raj - May 23, 2017

I used to feel disoriented and overwhelmed by a job search, but I recently discovered another path. A path that is empowering, and an opportunity to choose what I want to do and who I want to engage with. And it started with reframing my quest from finding a job to solving for work happy. I realized that the people I work with have the greatest impact on my day-to-day happiness, aside from my family, and I had the opportunity to choose who I spent time with. So I embarked on a journey to solve for work happy, and over the past 4 months I’ve spoken with nearly 300 people whose humanity, intellect and drive were held in high esteem. The experience has been awesome and crystallized 7 insights that will help you find work happy.

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. I’ll let you sit with that for a minute. These individuals often define your normal. They say “you can’t choose your family” but you can choose your work family. Your team. So make sure you choose your 5 well, strategically. Don’t just fall into it or blindly accept it. Seek out people you want to work with, that will elevate your game. And ensure you meet and deeply respect the team you’ll be working with.

Birds of a feather flock together. Start with your exceptional friends, those who model behaviours you hold in high esteem, that inspire you, and ask them to introduce you to 2 other exceptional people in their network. Repeat this with each person you meet with and keep following it. Enjoy the conversations and use the conversations to validate or invalidate your hypotheses about what you might like to do, the organizations and industries you might be interested in. Ask them about their work and their life, and share a bit about yours. If you connect, deeply, assess whether there is an opportunity to work with them.

Order from the secret menu. 80% of the jobs go unpublished. That means you’re largely unaware of 80% of the hiring that goes on. That is either because the roles are filled by an internal candidate or someone found the job before it was posted – a referral perhaps. Assuming this stat is even partially true, you’d better make sure your job search involves a bunch of authentic conversations to uncover the 80%.

Reciprocity rules. One critical element to these conversations is ensuring they are based on reciprocity. Actively seek out ways you can help. One way to achieve this is by asking them what keeps them up at night. If you can, demonstrate your thinking in the moment to address their pain points and see if it resonates. I’ve found that doing so has translated into a robust pipeline of contract work as an interim CMO.

Be true to yourself. Make sure to show up as your authentic self to see if they appreciate you for who you are. I’ve chosen this path and found it liberating. I show up with my sense of humour, my strong social ethos and belief that profit and purpose are not diametrically opposed pursuits, and the occasional swear word. And why not be yourself – everyone else is taken. If they don’t like you for being you, you’re going to have to act the whole time you work there. And that is exhausting. I don’t want an acting job.

Try before you buy. You don’t have to jump into a new job without trying it first. Trial periods allow organizations, and you, to get more data to help you both make an informed decision. The trial can be as brief as joining a brainstorm or strategy session with the people you’d be working with to see if you are a good match, or as long as a multi-month consulting engagement to ensure you love the work, how it’s done and the people you’ll be working with. While this may not seem feasible, you won’t know until you ask. So ask. Now if you find “love at first sight”, go for it. But if not, ask to date a bit more before committing.

Negotiate persistence and patience. Solving for work happy is an exercise in planting and nurturing seeds. You plant not knowing which ones will take root and if or when you’ll be able to harvest. Timing has a lot to do with it. It is a match of when a job becomes available and when you’re available for it. So balance the patience of acknowledging the importance of timing with the persistence to keep focused on finding your work happy by having as many conversations as possible with prospects.

We all deserve to be happy. And with the majority of our time spent at work, I believe it is essential to find work happy – and this is heavily influenced by who you work with. Do they raise your average? Can you be yourself?

In some cases, you’ll be lucky enough to be in that job right now. In others, the job might come to you through a friend or headhunter. And sometimes you’ll need to go out and find it. Remember, 80% of jobs aren’t posted. In the process, know that exceptional people know other exceptional people. So ask for their help. And when you’re in those conversations, find out what keeps people up at night and aim to be a pain reliever. Order from the secret menu. There are companies and teams desperately seeking people like you. And if you’re not sure about the gig, ask to try before you buy in a way that helps you and the organization make a more informed decision.

And ultimately, balance persistence and patience.

Rahul Raj is an Entrepreneur and Startup Advisor, as well as a reoccurring speaker at Brightworks’ Innovation Day. Most recently, he spoke at iD17 on Solving for Happy by Finding Your Work Tribe.


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