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It’s no secret times are hard and for most recent graduates getting a job is harder than expected. For many, getting a job you love feels damn near impossible. A recent Forbes article attributes a burn out trend among young women to a lack of initial self-reflection and notes that many of us didn’t “think of our lives beyond landing our initial job.”  The article’s author, Larissa Faw, explains that even those of us who did consider our lives past our first career still have unrealistic expectations about full-time employment.

So what’s the impetus for our unrealistic expectations and subsequent career dissatisfaction? My work in talent recruitment has taught me that yes, sheer naiveté is one minor causes—but more heavily it is the lack of guided self-reflection that has many of us considering a misaligned career. In the same way that one shouldn’t force their size eight foot into a size six, many of us are trying to force our way into jobs outside of our true interests and skill set, creating overall work displeasure and thus, burn out.

In this tough economy, it’s hard to resist applying to any and every job, but landing an ill-fitting job has inevitable negative side effects.  It is far more important for any career to narrow your job hunt based on some serious self-reflection.

Before you continue your job search think deeply about the following:

1.    Reflect on your passions: For many this alone can seem like an overwhelming task. It doesn’t have to be. Think about it this way: When do you experience the most joy? As you reflect on your current or most recent job consider the parts of your day you enjoy the most and the least. What aspects of your work do you find motivating? What are the things you do outside of work that keep you balanced?  Identifying these things will often lead us closer to understanding our passions and extrinsic and intrinsic motivations.  Finding a job that aligns with these things is a win!

2.    Take inventory of your skills: What ‘tangible’ skills have you acquired through your career?  Are you a skilled communicator? Do you have management skills? Are you a strong project manager etc? An important distinction should be made between attributes and skills, as they’re quite different. Being an expert in PowerPoint is different than noting that you’re a patient person. As you seek your next job opportunity, make sure it aligns with the skills you enjoy using.

3. Where do you want to professionally develop? This question should not only incite reflection around self-identified weaknesses, but also other areas of development that may have been untapped given the nature of your previous work experience. Are you looking for an opportunity to manage adults, or for projects to push your skills in Excel? Look for opportunities that will strengthen your skill set and further you down the path to your long-term goals.  Neglecting this focus could lead to job dissatisfaction.

Thinking through the above tips is only a start. As we consider our various career paths, we must look beyond the idea of a fulfilling job, and more towards an opportunity that allows us to walk within our purpose.  The more aware we are of our gifts and passions, the closer we are to walking towards that which is innate to our success.

Jovian Zayne is a writer, photographer and occasional radio co-host in New York City.  Read more from Jovian on her personal blog Word Up Haay!. Join her on twitter via @jovizi for laughs, encouragement and your daily dose of quick wit.

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