I believe that almost everyone has it backward when it comes to job search and career growth. This opinion is based on my experience as a recruiter and now as a career coach with tens of thousands of people.

New clients often show concern about their employment circumstances and a sense of urgency or even fear about finding a new position quickly. They are almost all focused on the work – “I need a new job; I need to find a job quickly; help me find it NOW.”. Although I understand this situation, I still try to move the conversation’s attention to other, more pressing issues. “What could be more critical than quickly finding a new job for a person in career transition or out of work?” you might wonder.

There are, in my view, more important issues to consider than “the work.” So I ask my clients, “What kind of life do you want to live; what kind of life? Appeals to you most; what are your top priorities; what are your core values; what do you enjoy doing most; what kind of job would help do your best work? How do you want to spend your day? What would be your perfect quality of life; how important is salary to you?” “How will your ideal workday be structured?” and so forth. Simply put, it isn’t about the type of job you want; it is about the type of life you want.

When potential clients are confronted with questions like these, they always look at me, perplexed, as though they don’t understand .” “Those questions are all fine and well, but I need to find a job!” they often answer. “Why do you need a new job?” I reply. What kind of work are you looking for? How would this new work fit into your long-term career plans? What makes you think your next career will be any better than the ones you’ve had previously (and mostly despised)? What role does your job play in your overall life plan?” The client would almost always respond with, “Life plan?” What is your life plan?”

That’s because most people do “Fire, Aim, Ready” instead of “Ready, Aim, Fire.” As a result, they “miss the mark.” It’s understandable that many people feel lost or confused at work. It’s no surprise that so many people feel trapped and “tied in knots” in their professions.

It isn’t their fault. It’s just the way we’ve been trained. We’re told to concentrate on “having a good job.” We’re advised to “still have a career,” even if it’s one that makes us unhappy. No one ever tells us that we should prioritize building a life over pursuing a profession or landing a job.

Here are two messages we are trained with:

#1: Job-Career- Life

Complete school and get a job (usually by accident or by chance). Your future is shaped by the work (or a set of related jobs), which then defines your overall life experience. This mentality is typically “unconscious” and passive, resulting in work that becomes nothing more than a routine or habit. The problem is that this model doesn’t fit in many cases – at least not in the long run.

Instead, reverse the math


#2: Life or Lifestyle-Career-Job

Visualize the life you want to live and the lifestyle you want to have. Make a true commitment to this picture once it has become crystal clear in your mind. Determine the career(s) will encourage and sustain the specific life and way of life. Then, study and evaluate the job market to find the specific job(s) that will allow you to live the life you want. This model is constructive and deliberate, gives you an advantage with a sense of mission and passion! It can also be maintained throughout the course of a career.

I know this way goes against conventional thinking since it is different but the first way of doing things isn’t great and leaves people unhappy.

Some people may believe that the attitudes and thought associated with doing this are only for senior executives and well-paid professionals. That isn’t true. It works for people in many professions and occupations.

Some people may complain that it takes too long, and does not answer their immediate need to “get a job now.” What I often do to accommodate the fear is help them get either an immediate job or bridge job and then work on the life they want.

Once you commit to finding the life you want, you will tend to find jobs are a better match. You’ll project a completely different kind of energy during interviews. You’ll show up more alert, focused, and assured. Your level of concentration, clarity, and intent will set you apart from the competition. You’ll be more involved, aligned, and efficient once you start the new work. Since you’ll be doing the right work for the right reasons, you’ll be “in your control.”

“There are jobs that pay the bills; occupations that help us advance financially and personally; and callings that provide us with a sense of satisfaction, commitment, and vitality that the other two do not.”

“There are jobs that pay the bills; occupations that help us advance financially and personally; and callings that provide us with a sense of satisfaction, commitment, and vitality that the other two do not.”                       


                                                 Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro

                                                 “Work Reimagined”


So, here are some thoughts for you to consider:

Are you content with a career that “pays the bills”?

What do you want to do with your life?

What is YOUR right job – the work that provides you with a true sense of satisfaction, commitment, and energy?


I encourage you to examine your value structures, beliefs and “internal signals” that shaped your professional experience thus far. If you’re unhappy with your current job, I recommend that you join the 1% of people who have changed the script and focused on having the life that they want. I am confident that, over time, you will see a positive change – not only in your job but in your entire life.



JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2100 episodes.

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