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 ikigai 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
- Interest level
- Skill level / knowledge
- Need / usefulness
- Would people pay?
Step 3 – Scoring
Now, for each item in the list give a score of 0-3
Interest level – How much interest do you have 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 – How much skill do you have in this subject? Are you a novice (0), a beginner, intermediate or an expert (3)?
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 you offered it as a service or product? Very likely (3) or not likely at all (0)?
Now create another column and total up the scores using the SUM function (or your amazing maths skills).
Step 4 – The magic of the ikigai tool
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 could you combine them to make a new career, whether that’s in employment or working for yourself?
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 a real career or business.
If on the other hand you can’t see a clear answer, this is where a life coach could help.
See also: How to find your calling for more exercises on discovering a purposeful career.