It would seem like a website focused on finding happiness at work would start with finding your ‘why’.

And why not?

Books have been written about making sure that you have meaning, and major media outlets publish multiple articles a month about your reason for being.

But I promise this is a little different.

These articles that help you tap into your values and find your purpose are worth plenty of praise – and I highly recommend you get to reading some if you haven’t spent a little bit of time pondering the question – but that isn’t what this post is about.

It’s great to know ‘why’ in the larger sense. However, speaking from recent experience of being in the job market, you let the idea go pretty quickly when you’re three months into the hunt.

Today’s job market is a little conflicting because two very different messages are being promoted here. One is to ‘follow your dreams’, and the other is a harrowing reminder that times are bad and jobs are tough to come by. And while the job-seeker is walking this fine balance à la Philippe Petit, they’re doing so with the weight of a dozen other problems on their shoulders, like an existing job, obscure pathways, new skills… oh, and rent.

It’d be easier to throw up your arms in the air and abandon the idea of a new job – and to some, perhaps even a job – because it’s too hard to keep this drive going in the face of exhausting obstacles.

And that’s where this approach to the ‘why’ comes in. Why are you looking for a new job?

Let’s for a moment abandon the more larger-than-life answers, like ‘wanting to help people’ or ‘wanting to change the world’, and tap into Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s goals theory:

  • Why? To make myself better.

The learning orientation. You’re motivated by continuous improvement and development. You want to build new skills and master your craft. And perhaps, you’ve exhausted the opportunities to do this at your current workplace, or you’re interested in something new.

Try this trick. When you’re feeling like you’ve hit a wall, remind yourself that every rejection is a learning opportunity. And if you’re not sure what the lesson is, go ahead and ask. Also, mix up your job-seeking routine by dedicating an hour to up-skilling. This will help you keep things fresh, and might even be the competitive advantage that lands you your next interview.

  • Why? To show them that I am better.

The performance orientation. You enjoy it when your talents are recognised, or perhaps would prefer to avoid situations where you might make a fool of yourself. Fair enough! And a prolonged job hunt isn’t doing much for your goals.

Try this trick. Are you in the market because your current place isn’t treating you right? Keep your eyes on the prize! Though take a moment to think about the accomplishments you’ve made, and what you’re bringing to your next role – then write this in a list, with clear and concise examples to demonstrate what you’ve done. It’s a handy pick-me-up activity, and you could turn it into the cheat sheet that you have on hand when you get a call-back.

A long-term goal is great, and there’s a greater chance of stability when you find your purpose and align it with what you do for a living. A purpose becomes quite unclear though, whilst in the throes of a job search and the feeling of frustration rears its ugly head. Use these quick tricks above to get yourself centered again.

Finding your WHY