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How to Write a Personal Job Ad

How are you supposed to discover your ideal job? The standard method is to fill out lots of questionnaires about your strengths and weaknesses, take some psychometric tests, and spend hours researching various professions. Well, here's an alternative. It's an exercise called The Personal Job Advertisement, which I devised for the courses on career change I teach at The School of Life in London.

The concept behind this task is the opposite of the standard career search: imagine that newspapers didn't advertise jobs but rather advertised people who were looking for jobsimagine that newspapers didn't advertise jobs but rather advertised people who were looking for jobs.

You do it in two steps. First, write a half-page job advertisement that tells the world who you are and what you care about in life. Put down your talents (e.g., you speak Mongolian, can play the bass guitar), your passions (e.g., ikebana, scuba diving), and the core values and causes you believe in (e.g., wildlife preservation, women's rights). Include your personal qualities (e.g., you are quick-witted, impatient, lacking self-confidence). And record anything else that is important to you — a minimum salary or the desire to work overseas. Make sure you don't include any particular job you are keen on, or your educational qualifications or career background. Keep it at the level of underlying motivations and interests.

job wanted

Here comes the intriguing part. Make a list of 10 people you know from different walks of life and who have a range of careers — maybe a policeman uncle or a cartoonist friend — and email them your Personal Job Advertisement, asking them to recommend two or three careers that might fit with what you have written. Tell them to be specific — for example, not replying, "you should work with children," but, "you should do charity work with street kids in Rio de Janeiro."

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So, you've done it now. Any interesting surprises? You will probably end up with an eclectic list of careers, many of which you would never have thought of yourself. And that is exactly the point — to help stretch your imagination. But the purpose is also to enable you to see your many possible selves. We assume that there is only one ideal job out there for us — our "vocation" — but the reality is that there are probably several careers that could offer fulfillment by bringing out different sides of who you are.

Of course, faced with some of these unexpected options, you'll now need to narrow them down. How? For that you will have to wait for my next article, which will be published tomorrow. Are you ready to take a "radical sabbatical"?

More from Roman Krznaric:

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Roman Krznaric is an Australian cultural thinker and cofounder of The School of Life in London. This post is based on his new book, How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. How Should We Live?: Great Ideas... New Hardcover $22.95
  2. How to Find Fulfilling Work (School... New Trade Paper $16.00

Roman Krznaric is the author of How to Find Fulfilling Work (School of Life)

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