How to land an amazing job after college

First, let’s define what an amazing job is. According to Cal Newport, an amazing job has three qualities:

1. Creativity: You can express yourself in a unique way that you find fulfilling.

2. Impact: Your work changes the world in a meaningful way.

3. Autonomy: Nobody tells you how to do your job. (p. 43).

It turns out that jobs with all three qualities are rare. By definition, if you want a rare job you have to have rare skills to offer in return. Pay very close attention to that last sentence; read it over and over again until it’s seared into your brain.

For a long time we’ve been duped into believing that we need to follow our passion in order to find meaningful work. Research is revealing that it might be the opposite–that we first do meaningful work, then stumble into a job we love. We do meaningful work with the skills we’ve developed.

Notice how broad Newport’s definition is of amazing jobs, and notice that it has nothing to do one particular field. If you’re struggling to land a job you’re passionate about it’s likely that you’re thinking about the problem the wrong way. Instead of thinking about what a job can offer you, think about what you can offer your job.

I knew I wanted to train college athletes for a living by the time I was 21; I thought that was my lifelong calling. I eventually landed a full-time job doing that at the age of 29, but in between I did all sorts of things: youth mentoring, traveling, writing, web development, and more. At each stage there were more things I found interesting–things I’m now “passionate” about, but more importantly, things I now offer my current employer.

With few exceptions, there is no such thing as a lifelong calling. There are many callings within a single life. It might be best to start where you’re at, getting better at whatever you’re doing. If there’s nothing you’re trying to get better at, pick something today. Pick marketing. Pick construction. Pick writing. Pick whatever you want. It’s under your control.

If you want an amazing job I think you’re going to have to focus on being amazing. There’s no way around it.

[For more, check out Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. He also has a TED Talk, “‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Bad Advice“.]

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