Don’t let your career just happen, make it happen!

Don’t let your career “just happen”, make it happen

Find your professional purpose or Ikigai


When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life” – John Lennon


Despite a significant fall in youth unemployment since the 2009 economic crisis, young people’s pursuit of a decent work is still threatened by job insecurity, a lack of quality job opportunities and skills gaps. All too often, young people start their working lives stuck in endless traineeships or in temporary employment, making them fear they will never attain “job security”.

One job after the other, young people try to positively balance the advantages and drawbacks of their previous positions, and to do more of what they like. In this context, pursuing your dream job may seem the promise of a distant future. Shall you then give up on your dream job? Certainly not! That is where Ikigai comes into play in order to accompany you in this exciting journey towards your destiny.

What is Ikigai?

It is a simple tool that enables you to assess where you are in your career. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “true purpose in life” or “your reason for being”. Translated in the job context, it basically means what makes you wake up in the morning to go to work.

Ikigai is found at the crossroad of four elements:

  • Passion – The things that you love and that you are also good at.
  • Mission – The things that the world needs and that you also love.
  • Vocation – The things that you can be paid for and also that the world needs.
  • Profession – The things that you’re good at and also what you can be paid for.


How does it work

To map out your Ikigai take sticky notes of four different colours.

On each sticky note write respectively:

  • What you are passionate about and really love to do (use one sticky note per items)
  • Things you are good at (i.e. writing, drawing)
  • What you can make a living from (i.e. working skills)
  • How you could benefit the world (i.e. social initiatives)

When you are done, place all sticky notes on the wall, following the Ikigai chart. Passion on top, profession on the left, vocation at the bottom and mission on the right. You will see that some items are overlapping in the middle. If you focus on the overlapping points, you will find yourself a lot closer to what your ikigai, your true purpose, actually is. If not, this simply means you have not found it yet, so keep exploring your passions…


Going further

In today’s job context, finding the right balance between passion, purpose and profit in your life, is not easy. But as we are to spend most of our time at work – we spend on average 80.000 hours in a career as per some experts – it is worth (a lifetime) to invest in your Ikigai.

Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Prepare for change: reflect upon your motivations

When there are changes in your work environment, what influence you positively and adversely? Map those positive and negative motivators in a matrix and then assess how you can best benefit from those positive motivators, and what actions you can take to mitigate the negative ones.

  • Take responsibility for making the change: adopt a flexible mindset 

Even if you are stuck in a job you don’t like, try to dedicate some time on a daily basis to things you like. Nourish your passions and do not forget to explore new things. Do not limit yourself to one passion. There are plenty of possibilities offer to you: free MOOCS, online trainings, webinars. All will help you develop new skills and get closer to your professional purpose. But, don’t assume nothing will ever change!


By Caroline Léfevre


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