How to Fall in Love (With Your Next Job)

by Shana Montesol Johnson

You know it’s time to move on to a new job.  But how to figure out what’s next?  How can you make sure that your next job is one that you love?  Your résumé can be a gold mine of insights.

Maybe you’ve had a good run in your current role, but your project is ending soon and it’s time to look for the next contract.

Maybe you’re ready for a fresh start – new organization, new country or geographic focus, new challenges.

Or maybe you’re miserable in your current job, and there’s just no saving the situation.  You’re beyond wanting tofigure out how to love the job you’ve got and you’re ready to pull the plug.

Whatever your circumstance, you want to be sure that your next move is the right one.  This time you want to have a job you love.

When coaching clients come to me for help in figuring out what’s next, one of the first things we work on together is getting clear on the kind of job or role that will best suit their strengths, interests, and lifestyle – in other words, a job they’ll love.

We pull out their existing résumé and get to work, mining it for insights.  You can do a similar exercise on your own.  (I developed this one with inspiration from a book by Marcus Buckingham.)  Grab your most recent résumé, and reflect on each job listed.

Was there anything about this job that you absolutely loved?

  • It could be something related to the people you worked with – like smart and funny co-workers who supported you or you were inspired and how energized the community members participating in your project became.
  • Or maybe it had to do with the kinds of skills you used on the job – you got to do a lot of research and writing, which you excelled at, or you spent most of your time giving talks and conducting trainings, which was a blast.
  • Maybe you loved the role you played in the job – you were a leader of a well-oiled machine of a team, or you got to fly solo on projects without being bothered by office politics.
  • Perhaps the best part was the physical environment – you were calmed by the minimalist Zen layout of your office, or you loved your view of the leafy park across the street.
  • Maybe it had to do with your work/life balance – you appreciated the flexibility to work from home if you needed to, or you loved that your employer offered yoga classes during lunch breaks.
  • Maybe you were energized by the subject matter or issues your job focused on – you couldn’t believe you got paid to read newspapers, magazines, and blogs on your favorite issues, or you felt you were making a difference in an area that you’re passionate about.

Jot down the specific aspects you loved about your past jobs. And if there are things you know that you would love in a job, but have yet to experience, add those, too.  Then do the same for your educational experience – what did you love about grad school or college?  You can even include your hobbies or travel.  What experiences have been fun, meaningful, and/or energizing?

Take a look at your list. Are there any common themes?  Anything surprising?  Anything obvious?  Circle the stuff that you feel is critical for your next job.

I’m not saying that you should demand that your next job include ALL of these attributes.  Neither am I saying that no job is worth taking if you don’t love every aspect of it. The point is to gain clarity on what is important to you in your work situation.

This clarity will help you tremendously in finding a job you love – as you search, network, apply, interview, negotiate, and finally, start work.

If you’re more of a glass-half-empty kind of person, rest assured that knowing what you do NOT want in a job can also help. So ask yourself, “Was there any aspect of my past jobs that I absolutely hated?” Again, it could be related to:

  • people – for example, your boss was a micro-managing control freak
  • skills – you spent most of your time writing proposals and developing budgets, which bored you
  • role – you worked as an external consultant, yet missed that sense of team spirit
  • physical environment – working every day in a cubicle sapped your soul
  • work/life balance – you worked 70 hour work weeks and traveled all the time
  • subject matter/issues – you just couldn’t get excited about the organization’s mission

Make notes of everything you truly hated (not just disliked or didn’t care for).  Then circle the stuff that you will never, ever tolerate again.

Getting clear about what you need to make your heart sing, your soul soar, and your energy surge is a great step toward loving your next job.

Speaking of love…For Valentine’s Day (which is really just around the corner!) I’m planning a special blog post about what people love about their jobs. Please share your input in the comments below, or email me at shana (at) developmentcrossroads (dot) com.  Tell me, what is one thing you love about your job? And please let me know if I can use your name and occupation in the blog post, or if you prefer your comment to be shared without attribution.

Photo by TheDreamSky

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


Thanks for a really informative and useful blog post, Shana! You do a great job of succinctly zeroing in on key questions/focal areas to help the reader determine exactly what one does and does not like in a job–and why. Looking forward to contributing the requested feedback for your Valentine’s Day blog post topic! Thanks =] Kat



Kat, thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you found the blog post useful. Looking forward to hearing your input for the Valentine’s Day blog post.


ramon s. medina

The points are well taken. It will really be of great help to people before they decide to move on to another work environment.



Thanks for reading the blog, Ramon, and for your feedback.


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