Does your work fit your uniqueness?

I was 22 years old and had just landed the biggest software deal of my sales consulting career. The client signed the contract and would send over $7 million for the license fee. Yessssssss! Let’s celebrate!

But that night as I laid my head on the pillow, I thought “Is this all there is to life? I am moving boxes through warehouses and making lots of money (for my company)?” I had a glimpse of doing this for the rest of my life, and it did not satisfy.

That was the moment my “dream job” was not a fit for me anymore.

At least this was the moment I realized it.

This was totally surprising because I loved my work. I loved my job. I loved learning, meeting new people, understanding clients’ needs, and presenting software solutions. I loved traveling to new cities doing this. To land the big deal I was just talking about, I went to Holland and Germany to prepare and then presented the software in Belgium. My enjoyment of the day to day work actually obscured the fact that this work was lacking in a greater purpose for my life.

Not only was I traveling the world, I was making good money doing it. Just two years before I started this job, I was literally digging ditches for a landscape company. I also worked in the kitchen of Chick-fil-a. I went from digging ditches and frying chicken to traveling Europe selling fancy software. Of course I loved this job! The high compensation made it hard to consider anything different. I was super grateful for the job and did not know if there was anything better.

But at the same time, I was haunted at night by the question, “Is this all there is to life?”

Having no answer to this question led me into a dark season in my life. Very dark. Very broken.

And this brokenness led me to the person who heals our brokenness. Jesus. At 23, I became a follower of Jesus. He traded my misery for His joy. He traded my death for His life. He traded my busy meaningless life for His purpose in the world.

Now that I was a follower of Jesus, I had a greater purpose to pursue. Over the next 18 years, I pursued His unique purpose for my life. I found my purpose, clarified it, refined it and had a new “dream job” right in the center of this my unique purpose.

I was training college students and launching them to unreached nations with the good news of Jesus. We were seeing people turn and trust in Jesus. We were seeing God’s kingdom break into our city and the nations.

I felt this was the purpose God had created me for. So all was well, right?

Actually no. The purpose was great, but the day to day work was not a good fit for my uniqueness. But because I felt so strongly called to this purpose, it obscured the part of my work that was not a good fit.

And this led to a lot of pain for me and the people I worked with. Things got really messy and people got hurt.

Why? Because I was working outside of my unique design from God.

So the big question for each of us is, “How do I know if my job fits my God given uniqueness?”

My own job experiences and my coaching of 100+ people in their pursuit of their unique work in this world have both given me a great perspective on job fit. This has led me to The Four Factors of Job Fit.

We all want our work in this world to fit our God given uniqueness. The question is how do we know if a job fits? Can we go beyond a simple I think “it fits” or it feels like “it doesn’t fit”? As I saw in my first dream job, part of it fit really well, but it was lacking in purpose. Later in my life, I had a great match in purpose but a mismatch in daily activities.

Now let’s talk about the four factors of fit. It took me 20 years and a lot of mistakes to notice these. My years of pain and mistakes are my gift to you. You can learn these fit factors now and pursue work that truly fits you. You can save yourself years in your journey! You have the opportunity to find your unique work in this world much faster than I did.

You can use the four factors to understand if your current work fits your uniqueness. You can also use these four factors to evaluate future opportunities. This resource will give you insight into a job so you can decide to pursue it or not. So think ahead about different work you are interested in and see how it fits you.

Engagement.

How engaging is the day to day work? Does it fit your skills? Does it give you a sense of satisfaction? Do you enjoy the work?

The best fit here is when your work fits so well that you enter into a state of flow. You fully engage in the work. You feel at one with it. You are fully present. You are focused. Often time will slip by and you don’t even notice.

The worst fit here is often indicated with clock watching. We have all experienced the dreaded clock watching and thought, “How soon can I get out of here?”

Of course, no work is going to be all flow all the time. For my uniqueness, I get no satisfaction from expense reports and booking travel. But I have to do it. Others thrive on expense reports and think budgets are fun! But these people might never want to step foot on a stage and teach large groups of people for 40 minutes, while this type of teaching environment fully engages me, renews my energy, and fits my uniqueness.

Let us each pursue work that is engaging to our uniqueness most of the time.

Purpose.

Does your work have purpose? Does it make this world a better place?

Your work has purpose when it is aligned with God’s purpose to bless people and help them flourish. Some work helps people flourish. Other work hinders people from flourishing. Some companies make people healthier or others work against people’s health. Some work blesses people and helps them prosper. Other work enslaves people financially or limits their freedom in some way.

Another way your work can have great purpose is when connects with God’s purpose for the earth. God begins the Bible with a command for people to cultivate the earth and ends the Bible with people living in a beautiful garden city. He loves it when we partner with Him to improve our earth and make it more garden like. Some work cultivates and improves the earth and cities. Other work damages the earth and cities.

Does your work help people and the earth flourish or does it work against that purpose?

Then somewhere between helping people flourish and harming people is the mediocre work of stuff that just does not seem to matter. Trivialities.

Over lunch, I asked a friend about his recent job transition. He said that his previous job with the insurance company was to give people the smallest amount of money possible for their legitimate insurance claims in order to maximize profits for the company. The people he served were at a vulnerable place in life having just suffered a loss, sometimes a devastating loss. And his job required him to work against their flourishing. But now he is working full-time to lead people to love and serve an under-resourced neighborhood. This is a man who pursued purpose in his work and found it.

In my work now, I help people enjoy Jesus more. I am more passionate about this purpose than my first job of moving goods through the supply chain.

Here are some more examples of purpose that my friends are pursuing in their work: making cities a more beautiful place to live, making eco friendly mini solar power plants that fit in shipping containers for villages without power, helping young ladies learn kitchen skills to nourish themselves and their families well, making software easier to use to help people thrive in their work, and cultivating the earth through a small landscape company (and working outside while doing it!)

Here are some examples of work that might work against human flourishing: working for a bank that pushes high interest credit cards on college students that don’t yet understand the devastation of debt, creating and marketing unhealthy industrialized food to children, and any work that contributes to suburban sprawl which makes people and the earth unhealthy.

In between these good and bad examples of purpose are the mediocre trivialities. A million jobs that don’t seem to matter one way or the other. Don’t get stuck here!

God has created you to pursue work with a great purpose of helping people thrive in this world. Let’s pursue that.

Resources.

Does your work provide enough resources for life?

“Enough” is certainly different for different people. But having your work provide “enough” is an important factor in job fit. Let’s think about “enough” here rather than the pursuit of “more and more.”

For some people, resources seem to be the only factor in job fit. They just pursue the high paying job regardless of how well it engages them or regardless of if it has a higher purpose. Some people feel stuck in a miserable job because it pays well. Some work pays so well that it can cloud your judgement about other areas being a mismatch for your uniqueness.

On the other hand, some people find work that is super engaging and high in purpose, but it just doesn’t pay enough to work out long-term.

Let’s pursue work that provides “enough” without falling into the trap of “more and more.”

Lifestyle Design.

Does your work fit the overall lifestyle design that you want to live? Think about the total life you want to lead. Consider your health, family, ministry, and passions outside of work. Does your work fit your lifestyle design?

Great lifestyle design is about your unique values for life. For example, one person’s life design might include flexible work hours and the ability to work from anywhere in the world. The flexibility and travel helps them work at peak energy and make their best contribution to the world all while having a blast along the way.

But someone else may thrive on a regular schedule and a perfectly set up desk. The regular optimization here enables them up to make their greatest contribution to the world. Traveling the world sounds okay for vacation, but not fun for everyday life.

Some people have a lifestyle design of simple pleasures like having dinner with your family most days. You may want to sit your little one in your lap and read a story together before bed every night. But if your job requires you to travel 90% of the time, that job not be a fit for your lifestyle design. Others travel often, and create a beautiful family life in a different way.

The good news is that you get to be you! You get to pursue the lifestyle design that fits you.

And big picture, you get to pursue the work you love! The work that fits your uniqueness. God has created you for this. Don’t settle into a career of bad job fit.

To get to where you want to go, it helps to know where you are right now. Then you can chart a course to get to find your unique work in this world. I am here to help you in this journey.

Now that you know the four factors of job fit, think about your current work. Which factors fit your uniqueness? Which factors don’t?

Think about work you are considering for the future. How does it fit your uniqueness?