Ikigai: How to align your skills and values to find career bliss.
I used to think my perfect job existed under a rock. If I reflected on it enough, then I could find it.
But purpose is built, not found.
You may be good at articulation therapy, which will make you feel competent. When you’re competent, you can usually be paid well. But if arctic drills aren’t intrinsically motivating to you, then you’ll feel like you’re stuck on a treadmill.
This brings up the Japanese concept of Ikigai:
The 4 areas you should explore are:
- What do I love?
- What am I really good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can I earn money with?
While I’m sure the concept has been westernized in some way, this venn- diagram is still useful for finding your north star.
And if “The Great Resignation” has taught us anything, it’s that people are sick of working just for a paycheck.
Millennials (including me), and Gen Z already prioritized meaning and impact, and 2020 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But personally, I don’t want to live in squalor— I want to get paid well and feel good about it.
Luckily, you truly can have it all. But you have to get scrappy and reflective; Ikigai won’t fall into your lap.
This process takes self-awareness. But reflection is only the first step—without action, you’ll fall into analysis paralysis.
So before you go blasting off job applications, do yourself a favor and take 15 minutes to reflect on:
- Your personal values
- Your skills
Audit your Personal Values
Your values are the high-level parameters that make work feel meaningful. They’re too vague to plan your next career move, but they act as a lighthouse in murky waters; they orient you towards opportunities in alignment.
They answer the “why” behind the “how. “
If you skip this step, you may end up in a career that seems good on paper, but wake up in the same vague discontent that brought you here.
Action step: Take 10 minutes to read this article, and come up with your own list of personal values.
For more ideas on values, I also recommend reading this article.
Here are a couple of my reflections:
I value seeking knowledge, autonomy, working with ideas, creative expression, and human connection, and money.
SLP seems to hit the mark on these: I mean we are lifelong learners and we have to get creative while connecting with humans on a daily basis—for a decent secure paycheck.
But as more of an introvert, I found myself drained. And the constant task switching and admin work took me out of flow. So after 8 hours, I had too much human connection. Plus, the constant meetings and pressure to meet therapy minutes sapped my creativity and autonomy.
While I love seeing learners meet their goals, I found you can make a larger impact on humanity outside of direct clinical work.
The main thing that held me back: What relevant skills could I use to transition out?
Audit your Skills
When I worked in a high school, I loved surprising my students. They thought they only needed solid programming skills to land a great tech job. But then I’d hit them with this stat:
Communication is the #1 skill Google looks for when hiring.
Luckily, we SLPs can claim to be communication pros. Here are generally relevant skills that come to mind:
- Organization and project management: Caseloads don’t manage themselves!
- Empathy and creative problem solving: Session planning and tailoring activities to each learner/client. These are relevant to UX roles, customer support, and content creation.
- Translating dense topics in plain language: We take research and assessment data and make it accessible to parents and colleagues. Written communication skills are the bread and butter of content marketing roles, not-to-mention all online communication.
You already have in-demand soft skills, and your SLP career is proof that you can learn new complex skills, empathize and adapt to different learners and team members, and creatively meet goals, while juggling multiple demands.
Add Adjacent skills to stand out
These skills are a great start, and you may be able to land a sales, customer support, or operations role at a health, insurance, AAC, or ed-tech company.
But if you want to really branch out into higher-paying, more flexible roles like UX, marketing, design, and content strategy, you need to demonstrate adjacent skills.
I highlight these skills because they’re anti-fragile, meaning they are universal in-demand by all types of companies (especially high-paying tech companies).
And you can build most of these skills on the side, without going into debt.
READ: How I broke into content marketing without going back to school.
That’s the path I took. I said no way to more schooling. I mean a master’s degree is enough.
Luckily, most modern companies care less about your formal certifications— they just want proof you can do the job and adapt.
That’s why I advocate building an online portfolio.
Because unlike a static resume, a portfolio tells a dynamic story. It shows who you helped and how.
Action item: Write down skills that being an SLP gives you. Feel free to use mine, or look at job descriptions for out-of-scope jobs, and brainstorm how SLP skills roughly translate. Then look for gaps, and ask: What other skill could give you an edge, if you combine it with existing SLP skills?
Finding value-Skill fit (Ikigai)
This is a lifelong journey. The education system is outdated and tells you to just get good grades, choose a path, and bam— you’re set for life!
But the modern world changes faster than an AI bot can beat a chess master.
So don’t feel pigeon-held by your degree. See it as proof that you can learn and adapt to anything and anyone.
At the same time, don’t expect to start a new career path and instantly have a 6-figure salary, with autonomy, flexibility, impact, creativity, and meaning.
Instead, take the long view, and ask “Does this path build skills towards fulfilling my CORE values?”
Because when you know which values matter most, you shift focus for a longer time horizon. You don’t need instant gratification, because you’re building towards a career that matters to YOU.
So stay flexible, patient, and follow your curiosity— Ikigai has never been more attainable.