Why do we work? The simple answer is to make ends meet and pay the bills. Once you've got past survival, the next challenge is to find happiness and purpose in your work. This leads to the question - how do you choose a particular profession? Maybe it's because you have the right skillset for the role, but skills can be learned and they won't affect long term happiness. There is something deeper at play...
There are two inputs that drive success in a job:
The combination of the traits of an individual (e.g. agreeableness), and the traits necessary to succeed at a role.
The deeply rooted motivation everyone has to contribute to society, and whether the form of that aligns with the job.
I am going to focus on the second, as I believe it is something most people don't even have a basic awareness of. Unfortunately it is not easy to discover what form your motivation takes - it is highly individual and the results can't be obtained from a simple test.
Any work that you do eventually goes into a product or service that is used by other people. At a fundamental level, your motivation for working is to benefit others in some way. That is what gives life purpose. You can work out of self interest (for money or status) but that will not be enough in the long term. To find a job that is deeply fulfilling, you have to figure out how you want to benefit others - the experiences you want others to have that would be truly satisfying to witness.
Some people will derive purpose from using their wages to give their family and friends the experiences they want others to have. This might work for a time, but it is definitely not ideal. Counting down the hours till the weekend will not lead to long term happiness when you spend the majority of your time at work.
So how do you discover the type of work that you want to express yourself through at a deep level? I am trying to figure it out for myself at the moment. There isn't a recipe to follow, but there are some general questions to ask yourself. Think about the activities or random moments you have thoroughly enjoyed in the past. Why did you enjoy them? Can you draw connections between them? How do you want to help others? Conversely, it can also be helpful to think about what you don't like doing. What makes you feel anxious or unhappy? Through a process of elimination, those activites must be missing the thing that really drives you. 1
Inspired by Glen Chiacchieri's Why I Quit Tech and Became a Therapist, and my own struggle with motivation as a software developer.