This summer, my son Sam is all in as a pizza delivery guy.
Each day he works his Momma proudly crimps his collar and straightens his matching visor before sending him out the door. She is so proud that he is t-minus two years from being off the payroll so she can travel!
Sam hops into his Toyota--affectionately known as the Samry--and pauses a moment to light up the company sign affixed to the top of his roof. Sam will tell you, it's all about the image. Then he's off to make some dough--literally.
Yes, Sam is living the dream.
However, Sam is quick to point out that is actually pretty grueling work. He doesn't make it home some nights until 1:00 a.m. (By the way, who orders pizza that late at night? Is there any wonder that Americans choose losing weight as their number one New Year's Resolution each year?) By the end of his shift, Sam is exhausted from cooking, delivering, cleaning, and closing.
Most mornings we find him like this.
If we are lucky enough to see Sam before we go to bed, he regales us with tales of adventure from his night. We sit in awe as identifies which of our friends are too cheap to tip (you know who you are). He describes unusual smells emanating from homes that would make 1967 hippies blush. Pizza apparently satisfies the munchies quite well.
He carries Milkbone biscuits in his pockets for pit bulls chained to the front steps. He knows most of them by name. Our bulldogs lay at Sam's feet for hours and drool on his pant legs, the tantalizing aroma of pepperoni and Milkbones proving to be too much.
Pizza delivery will do for now. But it's not his dream job. When he's ready, I'll share with Sam the technique I have seen great leaders use to find their dream job. You don't have to wait, however, as I'll share with you right now.
#1. STRENGTHS - the reason pizza delivery is rarely someone's dream job is because just about anyone can do it. There is minimal natural ability involved. (No offense Sam.) Leaders accelerate their career by discovering their strengths early on. They ask this question to uncover their gifts: "What brings me joy?" An easy way to find this out is review your to-do list for several days in a row and see which task or activity you tend to do first. More than likely, it is something you are naturally gifted at doing so you enjoy it.
Another great way to discover your strengths is to ask five people this question: "Can you recall a time where you saw me perform at my best? What was I doing?" Make sure the five people are diverse.
Research shows that feedback is more energizing and actionable when it comes from a diverse group of friends, family members, colleagues, and mentors who can paint a comprehensive picture of your strengths.
#2. SKILL - when you hone your strengths over time you develop a special skill set. Can you identify yours? The easiest way to do this is to look back at when you hit it out of the ball park. You crushed it. Time was suspended. What Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as flow. Key question: "What are you great at?"
I am an extrovert, but that doesn't mean I am a good speaker in public. Being an extrovert may be a strength (Christy would refute that), but honing that to become a good speaker is a skill. Narrowing strengths into specific tasks will help you define your skills.
#3. GRIT - a key question that leaders ask themselves before taking a job: "Do I have the grit to perform in this job?"
I can tell you that Sam's grit is going to last until about August 1 . . . if he's lucky. Arranging pepperoni systematically on a crust doesn't hold a candle to Saturday nights at Bryant-Denny stadium. It's only a matter of time before the motivation just isn't there.
Leaders choose jobs where their abilities and strengths are on display so that motivation is rarely, if ever, a problem. Intrinsic motivation keeps leaders tenacious, like our bulldogs sniffing Sam's pants. Finding this type of work produces energy, joy, excitement, and yes, even competitive spirit.
#4. FIT - the final piece the leader looks for in his dream job may be the most important. Key question: "Will I fit into their company culture? For Sam, that was easy. He was breathing and had a driver's license.
Leaders evaluate a bit deeper. Leaders look for organizations where they can freely demonstrate #1, #2, and #3 above. Company culture is simply how stuff gets done in an organization. Leaders want to do things a certain way--their way--so they are always hunting for the right culture to demonstrate their skills and abilities.
The diagram below pulls this all together:
And by the way, if you hire people for your company, these four rules are great for evaluating candidates. Once you discover the applicant's sweet spot, you'll easily be able to determine fit.
Sam is well on his way to a degree in Telecommunications and Film which will take him far away from delivering pizzas and much closer to his dream job. In the meantime, hook a brother up and give him a tip.