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Looking for a fulfilling job? Ask yourself these 6 key questions

Dreading another dull day in the office? If you’ve lost your passion for work, it could be time to make a break. Find a job you love by asking yourself these six essential questions…

1. What do you actually like about work?

When trying to figure out your dream job, it can be tempting to do just that: conjure up a vision of a fantasy role where every minute is thrilling, the pay is fantastic, and the perks are to die for. But a more effective and realistic approach is to reflect on what you’ve liked and disliked about past roles and use the learnings to inform your next move.

So cast your mind back to the last time you felt fully engaged and fulfilled in the workplace and think about what it was that made you feel that way.

  • Was it the kind of work you were doing? Were you really engaged by the subject matter, perhaps, or the thought that what you were doing was making a valuable contribution in some way? Perhaps you were working at the cutting edge technically, or was it a role that gave you a chance to express your creativity?

  • Was it the pace of the work? Some people like to take their time and not be rushed, whereas others love the adrenaline of fast-paced environments and tight deadlines. 

  • Was it the way you were working? Perhaps you enjoyed having a lot of autonomy in your role, or perhaps you relished being part of a team? Did you enjoy having several projects on the go at once, or did you love the chance to get really immersed in a single goal? Did you enjoy liaising with stakeholders and cultivating relationships across a business, or did you relish the focus that comes with specialisation?


2. What are you good at?

We all tend to be passionate about the things we’re good at, and in any case without that core ability it’s hard to find a role where you’ll really be able to develop. So take a moment to think about your strengths and weaknesses as honestly as possible.

List out your skillset in as much detail as you can, identifying not just hard skills but also soft skills too, such as negotiation, dealing with difficult people, and time management. If you’re considering a career change, it’s always tougher to convince a potential employer that you are a good fit for the role, so it’s important to have done this work and thought about the transferable potential of what you’re good at.

3. What do you want to learn?

They say you should never stop learning, and this is especially true in the workplace. No matter what level you are, the key to being fully engaged is to develop professionally and keep learning new things to keep your job interesting.

So do your research and find an employer that invests in their staff. Most employers will make positive noises about investing in the development of their people, but try looking on social media and employee review sites for a fuller picture. And of course you’ll want to ask employers about their training and development opportunities at interview too.

4. What kind of working culture do you thrive in?

A company in an exciting space with an amazing benefits package can sound great on paper, but if the culture isn’t a good fit for you, you could end up miserable in your job.

It’s important to get a feel for a company’s culture before accepting a job. The working environment and the atmosphere in which employees work can contribute massively to your workplace satisfaction. So think back over your previous roles and ask yourself: What kind of environment gets the best out of you on a day-to-day basis?

Again, a little digging on social media the careers page of a company’s website and employer review sites can be very revealing about what’s really going on at a workplace, culturally speaking:

  • Does it look like a culture that supports good causes in a serious way, perhaps by encouraging volunteering or sponsoring charitable projects?
  • Does it look like there’s a lot of hectic socialising, or is it a calmer, more collegiate sort of atmosphere?
  • Do you get the impression of a supportive atmosphere where people’s successes are recognised and celebrated?
  • Does it look like a place where everyone pulls together till the job is done, or is it more somewhere that majors on flexible arrangements and work-life balance?
  • Do you sense evidence of less desirable traits, such as presenteeism, a lack of innovation, or excessive bureaucracy?


5. What impact do you want to have?

Other than what the company has to offer you, have a think about the effect you want to have on the company. For example, if helping others is a great source of job satisfaction to you, it’s important to know if there is ample opportunity to do so before accepting a new job role.

Depending on your motivation you might consider whether your potential employer offers:

  • The freedom to grow an area of the business
  • The opportunity to develop and lead new projects
  • Participation in mentorship programmes
  • The opportunity to take part in CSR activities


These points might be worthwhile to bring up at interview when you’re asked if you have any questions about the role.

6. What fits with your current lifestyle?

One other key factor that impacts on the attractiveness of a specific role is where you are at in your own life. A parent of young children, for example, is likely to value financial security and the opportunity to work flexibly, whereas if you’re footloose and fancy-free, you may prefer to take on a role with less security but potentially higher rewards.

To work out if a role is likely to have a good balance with the rest of your life, weigh up all the cons and consider their relative importance to you. Think about things like length of commute, likelihood of being able to leave on time, relative quality of pay and benefits, job security and working hours required.

It can sometimes be tricky to navigate a conversation of this type in interview without arousing doubts about your commitment to the job, but again a little digging around online can usually help you source some honest insights from the employee perspective. Do make sure to read several reviews, though, to get an informed consensus.

Finally, don’t put yourself under too much pressure to find that dream job. It may not come next time around, or perhaps not straight away. But by thinking hard about what really matters to you, you’ll have a better chance of getting there sooner.

Read our other career advice articles.

For more information on how Robert Walters can assist you with your job search, please get in touch with a consultant.

E:  south.africa@robertwalters.com  |  T:  +27 (0) 11 881 2400

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