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The Myth of the Perfect Job

© 2009 Avocationist · April 7th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Perfect 10I knew a guy (call him 'Tom') who had a detailed "Top 10" list of requirements for any prospective girlfriend. She had to be blonde, athletic, intelligent, Ivy League-educated, successful, from a good family, and more.

Tom met a woman once who came close, but when every date was compared to that top 10 ideal, how could any real-life relationship survive? (By the way, he's pushing 40 now and is still single.)

I think that Tom had it all backwards.

Tom was working too hard on having everything figured out up front, and not enough time getting out there and being open to the spark he would feel when he met someone who was a good fit for him. That feeling of attraction would be a much more accurate indicator of a good match than any 10 or 100 or 1000 item list Tom could come up with.

And his list kept Tom from starting relationships that could have taught him the true way long-term couples stay together: It's not because they are perfect matches, it's because they have committed to the relationship.

They've committed to something bigger than just their own "Top 10 lists" of needs.

I'm telling you this because I made my own "Tom list" - only I wasn't looking for the Perfect Girl, I was looking for the Perfect Job.

And I didn't have any more success with my list than Tom did with his.

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Even though I knew how self-defeating this "Tom's Top 10" approach was in relationships, I went through much of my career thinking that the perfect job was not only achievable, but that it was the only way to have a career that was both meaningful and enjoyable.

And I had figured out the perfect route to the perfect job:

All I needed was a perfect understanding of myself...

E-S-F J-Oh-My

ESFJ, "mid D, high I, low S, low C", StrengthsFinder "Individualization and Ideation Themes".

Do any of these sound familiar? They are "types" - the outputs of career tests. I have a thick binder at home that has the results of all of the tests I've taken over the years.

They are fun to do. I always come away feeling better about myself because they write the "type" descriptions in ways that emphasize the positive. Everyone ends up with a type description like the fortune cookie I've gotten a few times: "You are talented in many ways". Or the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes envelopes: "Congratulations, you are a winner!"

The nice thing about all of these tests was that they were easy. Not much work for me: I just wrote the check, took the test and waited for the debriefing afterwards.

But as I kept asking "What do I do with these results?", I started to realize something important - these tests aren't really designed to help you identify your ideal work - they are a short-cut to help career counselors get a quick read on you. And, they provide a standardized way for them to give advice "in categories".

This isn't a bad thing, but it started to undermine the credibility of this "perfect job" idea that I had.

And, as I learned more about myself, I realized that I was just adding more and more requirements to my list.

Like Tom with his idea of the perfect girl, I was bordering on the ridiculous because no company or job was going to be able to provide this complex mix of needs.


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Photo courtesy woodleywonderworks

Tags: Career Advice · Career Change · Meaningful Work · Mid-Life Career Change

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Donna // Aug 18, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Great points! Life is what happens when you make other plans... I can attest to your point. I spent much of my 20's and early 30's trying to decide what my 'real job' should look like. I became an accidental entrepreneur 8 yrs ago and while my job changes, my passion for my work stays the same. There are ups and downs, but the key is feeling like you have a sense of control over your destiny.

  • 2 Avocationist // Aug 18, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Donna- great story! I'm glad you found your way to a good place - even if it was "accidental".

  • 3 Is quality of life about 4 hour workweeks? | | Ramblings of a non-conformist | Tomasz Gorecki // Sep 13, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    [...] The myth of the perfect job [...]

  • 4 What is a Great Lifestyle? | JetSetCitizen.com // Sep 15, 2009 at 10:33 am

    [...] for a long bout of unemployment. Allan Bacon of Avocationist offers a good related article called The Myth of the Perfect Job. In the post he compares a friend’s high expectations,  “Top 10 list of requirements [...]

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