How to find fulfilling work by Roman Krznaric


I’m very thankful to be in a place where I have an enviable career history, a wide range of choices ahead, and a lifestyle that I enjoy. However I have a number of interests that my current line of work, and the current trajectory of my work, does not readily satisfy or necessarily co-exist with. So a mentor of mine suggested this book which as been a helpful guide for me think through what I want in life. Here are my five lessons, but I recommend reading it as well if you’re also on this self-discovery journey. The book elaborates on examples that give you insights or inspire new ways to think about your life.
  1. An important question to answer first: Are you trying to find fulfilling work, or are you trying to have work that supports a fulfilling life?
  2. There are a couple of exercises worth doing as you start your discovery of fulfilling work, they are
    1. Map of Choices - Map out your career thus far and note the primary motivations for each transition, your motivation list: Status, Respect, Talent, Making a Difference, Passions, Money. Then stack rank your motivations based on what you want going forward.
    2. Imaginary lives - Imagine you have 5 parallel lives, what career does each of your 5-selves have?
    3. Reverse JD - If newspapers do not have job descriptions but instead of people looking for jobs, what does yours look like? Share this with 10 friends from diverse work backgrounds and see what they’ll hire you for.
  3. Fulfillment is derived from 1) meaning 2) flow and 3) freedom (or autonomy). This is very similar to the Dan Pink TED talk. 
  4. Now that you have some idea of what careers you might want to try, do these to fast-prototype your ideas:
    1. Discovery Conversations - talk to people who do the work, learn about it.
    2. Branching projects - Take a few hours, a day or weeks to try projects in the careers you desire. Do internships, volunteer, or contract for someone.
    3. Radical sabbatical - Take months to a year off from your current work and do short stints at potential work you want. 
  5. Do the 5 Whys. This wasn’t mentioned in the book, but is an exercise inspired from my Six Sigma quality management training that I found applicable in conjunction with the Map of Choices and the stack rank of Motivations. For each motivation, ask the 5 whys. You might not get 5 answers but go as deep as you can. For example here is my 5-whys map for Talent. Talent —> Feel Useful —> Be included —> Social safety, relevance, camaraderie and friendship. Social safety and relevance had further whys —> survival —> shelter, food, clothes. Turns out the reason I wanted my talent used is because I wanted 1) a sense of camaraderie and friendship, and 2) I tied it to my basic survival. This help me eventually breakdown into source-needs that were more important than the motivations given in the book. Your 5-whys map will be different, but I encourage you to try it.