The Ultimate Guide to find fulfilling work (pt.2): Does the perfect career exist?
(In pt. 1 of this guide, we learned what does (and doesn’t) make a dream career).
I fell into a deep depression and anxiety in my senior year of high school. Why?
I hate tradeoffs. I was the kid in Yogurtland who couldn’t just keep it simple with two complementary flavors.
Instead, I concocted some barfy mix of a little bit of everything. Topping tradeoffs be damned.
But unlike froyo, I could only pick one major. And one career.
For the rest of my life.
At least that’s what I thought at the time.
And as an idealist with FOMO (fear of missing out), this weighed on my soul.
Every path has trade-offs.
Every choice has an opportunity cost. You invest time and money into getting a degree. Then a master’s degree! And somewhere down the line, you decided that SLP was a good container for salary, meaning, and flexibility.
Now you’re facing burnout, examining your options.
But beware: you may be biased to see only the good new paths, and overly focused on the bad in your current situation.
Every career is a container for:
- Network and social relationships
Let’s take a look at a couple of common career paths and see how they compare:
1)Wall Street Wally
The Wolf of Wall Street was wildly rich. He held status in powerful circles.
However, wall street is famous for looong hours, grinding away with numbers. This leaves little room for creativity and flexibility in the type of work you do.
I put the “meh/so-so” emoji for impact + meaning because you could make an impact by donating all that money to a good cause. But you could just as easily buy a jet-ski or three. Your direct role could cause more harm than good to society. You’d have to go out of your way to create meaning indirectly.
Similarly, learning depends on what you want to learn.
But hey, the perks of clinking cocktails with socialites on rooftop bars in Manhatten could be nice. So I gave a thumbs up for socialization.
2) Artist Aaron
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Artist Aaron.
Aaron loves his craft. So much so, that he’s given up any financial security to dedicate himself to his craft.
He works in his home studio, which gives him the flexibility to work when he feels most energized and inspired. This keeps him in a state of flow and intrinsic motivation.
But besides artist meetups, he works alone 90% of the time.
He often feels lonely and wonders how long it will take for his art to make a true impact in the world.
3) SLP Susan
Right in the middle of the road, we have our chosen field: SLP.
I can’t speak for you, but if I imagine I’m SLP Susan, this was my thinking:
I was always interested in learning about psychology and communication. So SLP gave me an avenue to be a lifelong learner in these subjects.
Medical school was too type A for me, and I’m too afraid of killing someone.
So the middle-class salary of SLP was fine for me.
It’s a stable career where you can always find work. Plus, you can get as creative as you want with lesson plans.
I love the flexibility of being able to change settings if things get stale. Or hang a shingle and piece together a private practice.
The meaning can be high when you see progress. But it’s often slow progress, bogged down in paperwork, and little control over your caseload.
And the fact that people think you only work on lisps and /r/ sounds makes you question your status and identity.
So, what tradeoffs are you willing to make?
The fine artist may love what they do, and they’re decently good at painting, but they don’t fulfill a market need that translates to getting paid.
The banker may have a wheelbarrow of money and a monocle, but they don’t love it and wipe their soulless tears with benjamins.
Wait, does the perfect job exist?
Not in plain sight.
But I’m convinced you can create a path that ticks all the boxes through a mix of stable work and entrepreneurial side-hustles. It just takes time and perseverance. I’ll cover how I’m approaching this in my life in a future article.
But for now, relish in the fact that you have a stable career to fall back on while you build complementary skills and brave the oft-murky waters of work in 2022.
Your priorities will probably change —that’s normal.
Maybe you entered grad school prioritizing meaning. But now you really want to break the financial ceiling of SLP. Or maybe you found that you love the learning involved in the science of speech and language, but not the day-to-day.
What matters most to you now may change in 5 years or when life circumstances change—like having kids. That’s ok.
In fact, staying flexible and proactive is SO important in this ever-changing world of work.
That’s why my goal with this website is to help you build anti-fragile mental models and skills that adapt to your lifestyle, and not the other way around.
So in part 3 of this series, we’ll dig deeper into what makes you come alive. You’ll get the resources that helped me clarify and structure my thinking.
The end result? You’ll have a framework that grows with you through any career transition.