If you’re like most, the majority of your waking hours will be spent at a job. It might not be the same company and you might choose a completely different industry later on, but whatever the case, it’s crucial that you learn how to choose a fulfilling job.
Choosing the right job will bring you MANY benefits:
- More enjoyment out of life
- A higher level of satisfaction
- More impact on those around you
But what to consider? The highest pay? The least hours worked? The benefits?
In this post, I run through a few key questions that you should ask yourself before making any career decision. Though they might not give you a definitive answer, they will definitely help clarify the roadmap.
What Will You Learn?
Worldwide best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki famously said: “work to learn. Don’t work for money.”
Kiyosaki uttered these words in the early 2000s, and they’re even truer today. With society changing at such a rapid rate, it’s important that you choose a job where you’ll learn important skills that can carry into your future. This applies especially if you’re young.
Realistically, the amount of money you’re making at 22 won’t have a HUGE impact on your life… but the things you learn could. Some good qualities that you might learn from jobs are:
- Attention to detail (a crucial factor for success in any field)
- A certain mindset or approach to work (an investor mindset, a businessperson mindset, a winning mindset, etc.)
- Communication skills (still one of the most powerful skills to have in today’s day and age)
These are just a FEW of the traits which you could potentially learn from certain jobs. Be sure to ask yourself what you’ll learn from a job and be brutally honest about how it’ll impact your future. This may mean taking a job that pays less but teaches you more.
Example: you have an option to work at two different places.
- Your dad’s paint shop where you’ll be painting buckets and making $20/hr
- An entrepreneurial startup where you’ll be assisting an experienced CEO in his day-to-day and getting lots of facetime with him, but only get paid $13/hr
Now, everyone is different so I’m only speaking for myself. But when I view these opportunities, I feel like I could learn way more at the startup even if I’m taking a pay cut. Plus, in the future, that $7/hr difference isn’t going to matter much to me anyway.
Who Will You Meet and Network With?
The next most important things to what will you learn, is who will you meet? As quoted by many “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
When picking a job, ask yourself:
- Who is it that I will work most closely with?
- What does their career path look like?
- What are they good at and not so good at?
- Is this someone I want to work with and learn from?
- Is this someone who I could form a meaningful relationship with where we could both benefit down the line?
Over 70% of all jobs in the world are NOT LISTED. They instead come from within the network. If you have an “in” you’re SO much more likely to get the job than someone who just reached out on LinkedIn.
Consider all of this when you’re choosing your next job. Think about what you want your career to look like in the future, and which one of your choices will provide you with the network to get there.
Let’s return to the example above about the painting job or the startup one. Assuming your father’s painting business is only run by him, the add to your network from taking that job is… zero. BUT, with the startup job, even if you don’t gain valuable skills, you have the potential to network with a highly accomplished CEO. That in and of itself might tilt the scales completely in favor of the startup.
What Exit Opportunities Will the Job Provide You?
Some jobs open up your options more than others. For example, if you work as a nurse/doctor in an emergency hospital, chances are your next job will be somewhat medicine related (if not the same job that you had before just at a different hospital).
That being said, you COULD start all over but this is assuming that you’re carrying over the skills and network that you gained from your job (and not beginning anew). Someone who works in management consulting, on the other hand, might be able to exit out into an executive position at a company, do private consulting, become a headhunter, work in private equity, or start their own business… and they would have built up extremely relevant skills for ALL these endeavors.
So, when considering a job make sure to ask yourself:
- Where do most people who take this job end up?
- What TRANSFERRABLE skills do I learn at this job?
- Who has worked here before and then left to go somewhere else? Are they happy where they are and did they have other choices?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person will change their job 12 times in life. So even though you might think you’ve found the perfect job, chances are you won’t stay there forever. This being the case, make sure that wherever you choose to work will adequately prep you for your next role.
What Happens if You Stay?
This one is slightly less relevant if you plan on hopping around, but still an important question to ask. What happens if you stay in the company and work there for 10, 20, 30 years. Where are you most likely to end up?
A good place to start is by looking at more senior people in the company. Is the company full of sad, uninspired old people who have grinded out the last 30 years? Or is it full of energy-filled, motivated old people who have sucked the marrow out of the last 30 years at this job?
You might think “pfft, this isn’t that important Jeff. I’m just planning to work here for a few years to gain experience then dip.” That may be your plan, but life might have another way with you. Example: most people going into investment banking think that their route will look like this:
- 2 years banking
- 2 years big private equity mega fund
- Yay tons of exit opportunities
This DOES happen to quite a few people, but for every 1 banker who exited and followed this route, there’s another who stayed at the bank. This could be for monetary reasons or because they didn’t see the value in making a switch, but whatever it is, there’s a plethora of people in EVERY industry who THOUGHT they were going to leave, but never did.
So it’s crucial to ask yourself: “if my plan of world domination fails and I need to stay at this company indefinitely, what will my work life look like?”
What Will You Make?
Finally, last and probably least: what is your compensation going to look like?
There’s a reason that I put this as the last one on the list. In my opinion, pay should be one of the last things you look at when deciding what job to take. Of course, there’s a huge difference between $30,000 and $200,000 and it should be taken seriously, but even then it’s important to really weigh each one.
Chances are, all the other factors combined will outweigh your compensation, but if it really comes down to it, compensation is an OK proxy to use for which job to choose. That being said, if you’re going to compare compensation, make sure to compare actual compensation vs. salary.
- The person who makes $100,000 working 30 hours a week has better compensation than the person making $200,000 working 100 hours a week
Last cautionary note on comparing salaries is that if you’re boiling things down to a number, be sure to consider the potential future earnings of each job. And when I say future earnings I don’t just mean raises. I mean if you consider the exit opportunities, the network, and the skills you build, how much money could you make in the future with what each job offers you.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
Choosing what jobs to take can be some of life’s hardest (and most impactful) decisions. That’s why it’s so crucial to learn how to choose a fulfilling job that will benefit you the most in the long run.
The five key questions you should be asking yourself are:
- What will I learn from this job (skills)
- Who will I meet and build a network with?
- What exit opportunities will the job provide me with?
- What happens if I stay? (look to more senior people in your chosen career)
- How much will I make?
Take the time and honestly answer these questions for every job you’re considering. If you have been brutally honest while also feeling comfortable with the answers you’re getting, then you might have just found yourself your dream job…
Thanks for reading through this post about How to Choose a Fulfilling Job and thank you for following along! If you’re a Canadian Student, check out the Ultimate Canadian Student’s Guide to Personal Finance! To learn more about me, head over to this link here. If you want to get exclusive updates and tips, drop your email in the “get updates” box (might have to scroll up a bit.) Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!
Jeff is a Harvard 2025 student passionate about making smart financial decisions both in school and in the workplace so that he can spend more time doing what he loves (like playing golf, spending time with family, and travelling). He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys sharing all things personal finance, academic, and golf-related. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.