Why You Can’t Find A Job You Love

Do you ever wake up in the morning and ask yourself: “Am I in the right job?” “At the right company?” “On the right career path?” “Doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life?” If so, you are not alone.

After almost a decade of research, Tempe, Ariz, based “purpose” firm Ignite reports that more than 95% of workers in the U.S. are in the wrong roles. In another study by the company, 1,916 randomly selected employees between the ages of 23 and 28 were asked if they were interested in changing jobs, and 1,571 said yes. A recent Gallup study concluded that 71% of American workers are not engaged at their jobs. And Deloitte’s Shift Index survey indicates that 80% of workers don’t like their jobs.

Considering that the average American works 8.8 hours every day, not many people are jumping out of bed these days.

So why can’t people find jobs they love?

Hard Work

“Work hard, my boy, and you will be successful” was my grandfather’s childhood advice to me. Even though he has been dead for over a decade, I can still hear his words ringing in my head. You may have heard the same from your grandparents or parents. However, they were all only partially right.

While long hours may be required, successful people spend their time on the right things and in the right roles. When all these factors are aligned, most of these people can’t even tell you how hard or long they “work.” For them it is not a question of how many hours they put in during a week or work/life balance, but about doing what they love as much as possible.

In Larry Smith’s video Why you will fail to have a great career he mocks the idea that hard work is a noble goal in itself: “You want to work really, really, really hard? You know what? You will succeed…the world will give you the opportunity to work really, really, really hard.”

Bad Marriages

When searching for a life partner, people often create fantasies around someone they are attracted to. This is all part of a human tendency to romanticize the world – something that usually ends badly when each sees the other for who they really are. A consultant I worked with for many years would say, “When couples break-up arguing that their partner does not understand them, the exact opposite is true: They understand them – they simply do not like them.” And the same human tendency towards fantasy partners that helps explain the 50% divorce rate for first marriages in the U.S. also goes a long way toward telling us why American workers have an almost total lack of job happiness.

When people are looking for jobs, they scan the web for “attractive” companies that grab their immediate attention. They look at a company’s career page for openings, read the job descriptions posted, and then redraft their resume and pitch to fit the role they think they want. They recreate themselves to another’s specifications. From the outside, we can easily see how this could end badly. The company is pitching its most attractive side – whether real or perceived – and the candidate is tailoring who he or she is to meet the needs of the company. Six months down the road both sides are unhappy. Some of the relationships limp along for years producing minimal value; others end abruptly, causing disruption and financial strain for both parties.

Mere Passion

Most people will tell you that the secret to career happiness and success is finding what you are passionate about and doing it. However, the Founder and Chief Ignite Officer of Ignite, Tom McDermott believes that this thinking is flawed. He asserts that passion is only part of the equation. For example, like many American Idol contestants you maybe passionate about music but not a gifted singer. Or a talented teacher but not teaching something you are passionate about.

Tom believes the real game-changer is our natural child-like curiosity – without which a person will not find true alignment, happiness, and success in life. He argues that most people never go far enough in exploring and questioning what they are profoundly curious about. For Tom, finding a job that you love requires doing something you are “passionately curious” about and born to do.

To illustrate this principle, you may be passionate about sprinting but not have the natural ability to be a gold medalist in the 100-meter dash. You may really be curious about how humans can move faster and be better placed as a sports science researcher, coach, or perhaps an aerodynamics engineer. Without asking the right questions, your passion may drive you to sprint in the wrong direction in life – investing in a running coach, the best shoes, and having hopes to achieve a world record when your natural strengths and curiosity don’t align with that goal/passion. According to Tom, you need to ask why you enjoy sprinting. What about it? If your talent, strengths, passion, and curiosity are in sync, you may find yourself setting records in the 100-meter – or inventing the Hyperloop train that carries people at speeds up to 800 miles an hour.

A child fascinated with glasses may not be destined to be the next great eyewear designer but may be curious about how people can see further. She could become the inventor of the world’s most powerful telescope, discovering unknown planets. Without asking the right questions, a life can easily be wasted on a wrong path and deprive the world of important advances and innovations…or a world record in the 100-metre dash!


Money hasn’t been around that long in the scheme of human existence, but it has quickly become the ultimate distraction. In fact, the first question most job seekers ask is “How much does the position pay?” The answer usually determines if things move forward.

When I first met Tom McDermott of Ignite he asked me: “If money were not an issue, what would you do in life?” This is a great theoretical question to probe your desires. On the other hand, most of us can’t eliminate money from the question of where and why we work.

Dr. Paula Caligiuri provides one answer to this quandary in her book Get a Life, Not a Job: Do What You Love and Let Your Talents Work For You. Caligiuri suggests that you actively seek multiple streams of income to achieve the freedom to follow what you love and not be financially beholden to a job you don’t want. This can be in the form of a home-based business, speaking on your topics of expertise, teaching others about something you love, or perhaps investing.

The Right Match

In 2000 the online dating site eHarmony was launched with the tag line “Beat the odds, Bet on Love with eHarmony.” It pioneered a new scientific approach to matching couples that relied on pre-assessments to gain a deep understanding of its clients and compatibilities before any pictures or profiles were shared. It was a concept that changed relationship matching forever and improved chances of successful dating, marriage, and fulfilled long-term partnerships.

In such a process there is no gaming the system – no imagined personas – because neither side knows of the other until a personal match is made. This same concept will ultimately revolutionize job search and placement for the next generation workforce that is looking for purpose over “work.”

Arizona based Y Scouts is the only recruitment firm I am aware of that operates a model similar to eHarmony’s, but they currently only handle executive searches. However, the dating site is contemplating offering a non-executive job search option soon. Until then, job seekers will need to be proactive and create their own process. To do this, you should have the answers to the following questions prior to starting your search and stay true to them when you are looking to apply to jobs. If you are working with a recruitment agency, share your questions and answers with them before they introduce roles to you. Ask them to only connect you to organizations and jobs that are a clear fit.

—What job would I be excited to share with others?

—What would an organization do that would make me excited to share with others?

—What gets me out of bed in the morning?

—If money weren’t an issue, what would I do?

—What do I do best?

—What am I most passionate about?

—What am I most curious about?

—What have I most enjoyed doing throughout my life and why?

If you are having problems answering any of these questions, below are a few resources to help.

Dr. Paula Caligiuri’s book Get a Life, Not a Job: Do What You Love and Let Your Talents Work For You has excellent personal discovery exercises throughout.

Clifton StrengthsFinder tool will assist you in discovering what you do best.

Ignite’s on-line course will help you discover your passionate curiosity and bring your purpose to light. The company also offers private purpose coaching.

Y Scouts’ website is a good resource to help you discover your “Why?” and also has a free purpose-based Talent Community that anyone can join.


Published on Forbes, 13th September 2013.