How to find a job that brings you joy

Danielle A. Vincent
6 min readJan 4, 2018

This is an excerpt from my upcoming to-be-named book on how to get a job.

Temporary tattoo from the Central Soaper’s Workshop

A job without joy kills your soul.

If you ride the Bay Area subway at 7:30 in the morning, you’ll see what I mean: People with no light in their eyes, shuffling through the motions of getting to a job that brings them absolutely no joy. On the way home, it’s no different. They know they have to go tomorrow. They know the treadmill doesn’t lead anywhere exciting. It’s not really a dead end, but it’s not like they’re getting anywhere either.

Don’t be like these people. And if that’s how you feel right now, know that there is life after death-by-a-thousand-TGIFs.

People have an attitude that this is “just how it’s done,” and that an exciting, interesting job is somehow out of reach for most people. The stories that you were told about finding a steady job with a good pension and being lucky to slowly accumulate a retirement may be other people’s reality, but they don’t have to be YOURS.

Sure, maybe the world needs tax preparers who find numbers tedious, financial advisors who guide people into a comfortable after-life, and data entry administrators. I’m pretty sure some people might find those careers exciting, but I sure don’t. And if you don’t either, don’t let “but this is what I’m supposed to do” lock you into a joyless zombie parade.

No matter what you’re doing or where you’re doing it, there’s a joyful future ahead of you if you want it.

Making It Happen

There are two ways of having a joyful employ:
1. Finding a way to morph your existing job into something that brings you joy
2. Finding a job in a line of work that brings you joy

Making it happen where you already are

As it turns out, people who enjoy their jobs do better at their jobs! Isn’t that awesome? And that means that as you’re working at something that makes you happy, you’re actually positioning yourself well to do more things that make you happy. It’s fricken’ AWESOME.

So if you find your joy, you’ll not only be living more joyfully in the present, you’ll be more effective and make more people around you happy too! Huzzah.

If you’re in a job that doesn’t bring you joy (worst case: a job you have contempt for), and you’re just shuffling to and from work, chances are good that you’re not performing very well, people aren’t delighted to work with you, and you complain about your rotten job to your friends and colleagues. It’s affecting your ability to keep your job, since it’s no surprise that people who are unpleasant to work with get cut first. And it’s making you miserable. So let’s change it.

Find some part of your job that does bring you joy, that you’re skilled at, and that you can create a measurable impact. This could be tracking metrics or writing reports. It could be organizing the company’s annual golf tournament — suggest they do two a year instead of one, and offer to organize it, or talk to the person in charge of it and ask if you can help out.

It’s likely that you might bump up against a time constraint of having to do your existing job and also having to do this new (joyful) part. If this is the case, before you start dropping your existing job duties, talk with your manager about officially expanding your role to include these other things. You might have to work more hours for a short time while you figure out how to balance your regular job and your joyful task, but it’s worth it.

While you’re doing the joyful bit, be sure to keep track of measurable accomplishments for your resume, since you want to be able to show that you’re really kickin’ this whole joyful activity out of the park. Even if you don’t intend to leave your company, it’s really helpful to show that you’re kicking ass and taking names. Because eventually, you’ll get to a point where you can expand this role, either where you are, or in a new place. And then you’ll have the experience, with real-world measurements to back up your skills.

Activity
In your notebook, write activities in your current job that bring you joy. What delights you about those things? If nothing immediately comes to mind, think about small tasks you could take on that might bring you more joy. How can you start doing those more often?

Making it happen in a new place

Ok, let’s say that you’ve found that getting out into nature and experiencing the wilds really brings you joy, and you work in an accounting firm. Your accounting firm doesn’t have any clients like the National Parks Service. In fact, you work in a cubicle and you can’t even see a window, let alone experience nature on a regular basis.

You want to change careers, but you’re not sure how. Maybe you have student loans and a mortgage. Maybe you have a family that depends on your current income. Maybe your Dad was an accountant, and his dad before him was an accountant, and his dad before him was an accountant, and your entire family will be disappointed if you become a marine biologist.

Maybe it’s just not going to happen this life. Maybe next life. Maybe never. *Buries head in hands*

HEY! Buck up, buttercup! First, your skills and education are valuable, and we can transfer those to another industry. Work is more flexible than ever, and you’d be surprised how many environmental agencies need accountants. If you’re in a firm, start investigating what firms work with the type of work that brings you joy! Maybe you won’t immediately get to jump off the cliff into joyland, but we’re going to set out the map and get joy-adjascent.

See, like I said in the earlier section, people who are working with joy do a much better job than people who are trudging along hating life. It’s possible that when you get joy-adjascent, you’ll stop hating your career path, and you won’t have to change careers overall. That would be neat!

But even if you change jobs to a joy-adjascent job, and you hate your career, working in a joy-adjascent job will enable to you to get some on-the-job training, meet some people in the field you’re interested in, and set you on the path to a new career direction. You won’t be starting from scratch, and that will shave YEARS off your advancement in your new career. That means that you’ll make more money from the outset, and so if you’re stressin’ about the student debt, this career change might not be such a crushing adjustment, and you won’t feel like you’re starting from the bottom.

Activity
What jobs could you find that are joy-adjascent? Do a little research and find out what of your skill sets could be applied there (or around there). Look on LinkedIn and Facebook to see if your friends work in that industry or in those positions. We’ll talk about networking and LinkedIn later, but right now, we’re just sniffing around other places (and hopefully getting a little excited about the possibilities out there… I mean, heck, I got excited mentioning marine biology and started thinking about ways I could start working seasonally at the Seattle Aquarium).

The third option: Lots of work

If finding a new joy-adjascent job is too much trouble and you don’t have the moorings like a student loan or a mortgage or a family depending on your income, you have another option: the volunteer route. Yeah, this means adding more time to your days and maybe sucking away at some of your weekends, but escaping a soul-crushing nightmarescape is totally worth it. And if you’re relatively unmoored by the trappings of modern culture, you are free to float about the volunteersphere! The world is your oyster!

This is also particularly wonderful for people who have figured out how to live on very little (such freedom!) or who are independently wealthy (much leisure!).

Volunteering is awesome because you can stick your toe in many oceans before figuring out exactly what you’d like to dive into. You get to meet seasoned professionals in the business and make connections, and sometimes even hold very high-responsibility positions to decide if they’re your thing.

Activity
Poke around on the internet for volunteer opportunities in the area that brings you joy. You don’t have to spring into action yet, but keep a document (or an Evernote folder, or whatever your preferred method of storing the flotsom and jetson of content on the internet is) of links to these positons for your future investigation.

Again, this should be a very fun and joyful activity. After all, you’re researching the things that bring you joy! Your heart should be singing and you should struggle to stop yourself from applying for these positions. We’re talking serious eye-twinklage here.

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Danielle A. Vincent

CEO of Outlaw — https://LiveOutlaw.com — award-winning entrepreneur, published author, and incurable optimist (the doctor says it’s terminal)