The Career Catalyst: Ikigai and finding your career mojo

career enjoyment fulfilment ikigai job purpose Feb 28, 2023

 Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply wave a magic wand and conjure up our perfect job? Is there a way to decide what kinds of job would best suit you? The Japanese have a word which encapsulates the concept of a fulfilling life- a reason for being rather than simply a job. It’s called Ikigai.

The IKIGAI diagram is a helpful tool to appraise opportunities you may be contemplating. Considering these key elements in combination can help you decide whether a job is right for you. While there may be no such thing as the perfect job, investing time trying to move as closely as you can to the centre of your IKIGAI is likely to deliver a stronger sense of fulfilment.

The reason many of us are dissatisfied in our jobs is because we often focus on only two or three of the four dimensions of IKIGAI.

My first job delivered solely on what I could be paid for. There was a recession and I needed a job. My choices were limited. I got a job in telesales. I hated it. I dreaded each Monday morning and couldn’t wait to leave. It wasn't something I was good at and the world really didn't need another telesales person. Eventually I retrained and achieved all four elements of Profession, Passion, Vocation and Mission through my move into careers work.

Later I moved into a role where the sense of Mission was missing. A friend of mine described the work I was doing at that time as ‘hitting the target but missing the point.’ This was such a good description that I knew then I would have to leave to regain what I’d lost from previous jobs I’d enjoyed so much.  Once I changed jobs, I appreciated what it was to be energised in work again.

Questions to ask yourself when exploring options:

  • It might seem sensible to focus on Profession: what you’re good at and what pays well.  You may convince a recruiter that you’re the right fit. You may well be successful. Whilst you can do it, if you don't love it, you will become drained of energy.
  • If you focus on Mission- what you love to do and what the world needs, will this work also pay you? Will it make use of your skills ?
  • If you focus on Vocation- what the worlds needs and what you can be paid for, do you also have the skills that will make this employment secure? Will you also enjoy it?
  • If you focus on Passion, what you love and are good at, will it pay you? Does the world need it?

There are no quick fixes for finding your perfect job. Everyone will have their own ideas of what will deliver this.  However, using the IKIGAI diagram to evaluate your options may help you explore what different jobs may offer and which you may find fulfilling.

The minute you choose to do what you really want to do, it’s a different kind of life. Buckminster Fuller

Anne Wilson (SFHEA), is Head of Careers at the University of Warwick and part of WHEN’s Career Accelerator programme delivery team. Her blog, www.thecareercatalyst.co.uk is aimed at women working in Higher Education. Anne is actively involved in the development of female staff and students at Warwick.