Find the career of your dreams in a spreadsheet

“What should I do with my life?” isn’t a question reserved for school leavers and college grads. More and more people are asking this question in mid-life after working for 20 years, sometimes in successful careers. If you’re one of them, and you don’t want to spend the next 20 years in the same old grind, dreading monday mornings, then perhaps it’s time to discover your ikigai.

You may have heard of this Japanese concept. Your professional ikigai is the sweet spot where your work also has meaning.

Your ikigai should make you feel so motivated, you’ll make your alarm clock redundant.

Finding it feels like sorcery. You have to solve this riddle: it’s something you’re good at, that you enjoy doing, that is useful to the world, and crucially, that people will pay you for.  Your ikigai reveals itself in the overlap of those 4 areas.

Here is a diagram of it.

To find your ikigai, you could simply write a list of things in each four circles and see if you can spot any commonality. But if nothing immediately springs out at you and you’re left confused, the humble spreadsheet will prove more powerful and revealing than you ever thought possible.

You do not love all things equally, nor are all your skills at the same level for everything you do. You’re more likely to get paid for something you do really well. So to get to your ikigai truth, we have to apply a scoring system.

You can do this exercise on paper, but it will be really quick and easy if you use Excel or Google Sheets (which is free). It only requires very basic spreadsheet skills (creating a sum total, and sorting).

Let’s get to it.

Step 1 – Brain dump

In the first column of your spreadsheet, write a list of all the skills, experience and interests that are part of your life (professional and personal life). Include

  • Activities you enjoy doing
  • Things you’ve had an interest in for a considerable time
  • The things you’re naturally good at
  • Your top skills, developed through your career or otherwise

Step 2 – Columns

Create four more columns with these headings

  1. Interest level
  2. Skill level / knowledge
  3. Need / usefulness
  4. Would people pay?

Step 3 – Scoring

Now, for each item in the list give a score of 0-3

Interest level – How interested are you in this subject or activity? Score it using 0 for absolutely no interest, up to 3 for highly interested – something that keeps your attention and curiosity.

Skill level – Do you have no skill, some skill, considerable skill or are you highly skilled?

Need or usefulness – Think about what the world needs. Is this thing useful to people? Score it from 0-3.

Would people pay for it? How likely is it that people would pay for this, if it was offered as a service or product?

Now create another column and total up the scores using the SUM function (or your amazing maths skills).

Step 4 – The magic

Use the Sort function to order the list by score totals – descending – so that the top scores float to the top.

Focus in on the top scoring items – the ones in top place and the ones in second place (or if working on paper, use highlighter pens).

How can you combine them to make a new career, whether employed or self-employed?

Surprised with the outcome? Excited by it?

Maybe you can instantly see how this combination of things you love, your skills and talents can become your next phase of work. If on the other hand you can’t see a way to make it happen, speak to a coach. A life coach or career coach will help you find a way.

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Gabrielle Collard

Gabrielle is a certified professional life coach and founder of The Coach Space. Read more about her coaching and book private online coaching sessions directly on her website.

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