The fairy tale of finding your singular calling is enticing, says Elatia Abate, AB’99, MBA’08, but the reality is that the job search is about lifelong discovery. (Collage by Joy Olivia Miller)

Below: Portrait of Abate. (Courtesy Elatia Abate)

Yes, you can find a job you don’t hate

How to carve out your niche in the job market.

The modern job market can leave workers dissatisfied. Despite the huge number of networking and career events intended to help job seekers, many people never find work they truly enjoy. Why? While the current system is good at filling open positions efficiently, explains career coach Elatia Abate, AB’99, MBA’08, “it doesn’t necessarily confer what we as human beings want to create.” Still, she argues, within this imperfect structure, we can carve out our own niche to reach career satisfaction. Here are three of Abate’s tips for constructing that path to fulfillment.

Tip one

Accept that there is no one perfect job. The myth of finding your singular calling is enticing, Abate says, but the reality is that the job search should be about lifelong discovery. “So stop worrying about getting the perfect job and really just focus on doing something that’s going to help you continue with the life of the mind and create a life that is interesting and engaging for you.”

Tip two

Learn from unfulfilling experiences. When you are not as enthusiastic about a job as you’d hoped, take a few steps back. Ask yourself, “Why is it that I want to leave? What is it that I want to create instead? What about this job is working for me?” “It’s never all bad,” insists Abate, “even in uncomfortable situations.” At the very least you’re learning something. Pay attention to what you like and—more importantly—dislike. If you decide to leave, make sure you have a direction going forward: “Don’t assume you’ll just figure it out later.”

Tip three

Don’t lose your sense of curiosity and agency. Recognize that you have the power to create a career of happiness. Don’t give up on being curious, excited, and engaged in the world as you navigate the job market. Invoking Joseph Campbell, Abate believes that people are not looking for the meaning of life but for the experience of being alive. “For me, this is what [finding a career] is really all about,” she says. “Why do we lose that sense of adventure and being alive when we simply don’t have to?”