The elusive career sweet spot. Are you one of the two-thirds of American workers who live from “Thank God it’s Friday” to “Oh God, it’s Monday”? Then you are not in a good place to be.
For whatever reason, you are not happy with either what you’re doing or what you’re making. Don’t worry, nobody is. But some do find that perfect balance by finding complete job satisfaction. Below are the stories of four people who found their career sweet spots.
Find a Better Way to Work — See How You Stack Up to the Competition >>
Janelle Young sports pink streaks in her hair and stylish clothes. She casually mentions that she’s worked as a hairstylist for 30 years. I think she's joking. She isn’t. At 53 years old, she’s worked in the same profession for 30 years, and at the same salon for the last seven.
“I feel content with my work,” Young says. “I earn enough to live the life that I want. I’m near my parents and my brother. I can spend time volunteering in the community, and I feel like I make people happy when I do their hair.
“When I retire, the only thing that will change is that I’ll do more volunteering and my house will be paid off.”
In terms of her finances, Young says, “It’s not that I never wanted more, but I’ve always had enough. I guess I’m just content. I could have gone out on my own and made more money, but I don’t think I would have liked it, and I don’t know why I would need more money.
“I’ve bought a house, and in 10 or 12 years, I’ll be able to retire. I like working for this salon. I know they’ll stay in business, and so will I.”
Young is a classic nine to fiver. She thrives when her work ties immediately to outcomes, and she feels most comfortable when she doesn't have to take on the risks associated with running a business.
See How Your 401k Stacks up in Minutes — Start by Getting Your Free Analysis >>
“I like to think that I’m smart and that I have excellent mental resolve, but with entrepreneurship, you need that resolve to persist for years, and you still might not succeed,” says Dacheng Zhao, a product manager at Google. “The feeling of success is rare with entrepreneurship, and I like to see progress.”
After years working as an early employee for a startup, Zhao struck out on his own. He started HelpPing, a technology solution that would help customers at retail stores find what they needed. His company failed to gain traction, and less than a year later, Zhao restarted work as an employee at some of Silicon Valley's tech giants. That's where he found his career sweet spot.
Currently, Zhao solves complex problems, but he receives a stable paycheck. “I don’t like the everything-is-at-risk aspect of being an entrepreneur,” he says.
“I want more financial stability, and I’m okay giving up possible financial upside for that stability.”
Zhao also claims that working for a more established company gives him the option to focus on solving problems, unlike when he was an entrepreneur.
As an intrapreneur — or a manager and innovator within somebody else’s company — he doesn’t have to worry about monetizing his work immediately.
Bill Dwight, founder of FamZoo, spent the first 20 years of his career working as an intrapreneur at various tech startups, including tech giant Oracle. He’s never been afraid of hard work, and he had the energy to be aggressive in his career.
He worked his way up to an executive level, but he kept in touch with his roots as a developer. In 2006, when Dwight’s company, Elance (Now Upwork), sold an arm of the company, its executive team needed to downsize, and Dwight considered it the right time to strike out on his own.
Need a Business Loan? Get Your Free Quote >>
Although Dwight felt he had plenty of creative control working in his previous positions, he dreamed of creating a software that would help parents become better mentors to their kids. Thanks to years of high-paying jobs and frugal living, he had the funding to do it. So with his five kids in tow, Dwight struck out on his own.
For more than a decade, Dwight has focused his energy on building out a family banking system that helps prepare kids for the financial jungle of the real world. Today, FamZoo has more than 2,000 families enrolled.
Will Dwight ever sell FamZoo and realize the huge financial upside? Probably not.
FamZoo’s goals have become his mission, and helping develop a system that helps families out is more important to Dwight than cashing out. He loves working in his open-ended space.
And with a large financial safety net, he wants to continue his work indefinitely, even if he never turns a profit. To each his own career sweet spot!
When working as a credit analyst, Kayla Sloan spent her days crunching the numbers on other people’s debt, and she spent her nights worrying about her own. Once the worry started to overcome her, Sloan started a blog to help her create a plan and stick to it.
After several months of writing on her own, another blogger approached her and asked if she wanted to take on some freelance writing. She took the gig, and her life began to change.
Sloan built up her freelancing income (writing at first, and over time, digital marketing) to the point where her “side” income surpassed the income she received from her day job, and then she made the leap to full-time freelancing.
As a freelancer, Sloan is paid entirely based on her performance, but she feels that she has more financial security now than she did as a credit analyst. It helps that she earns up to three-and-half times what she earned previously, but she takes comfort in having many different clients instead of just one.
Losing a single client would never sink her financially. For now, freelancing is her career sweet spot.