I’m a former NFL player turned performance expert. Here’s how to redefine your career in an era of mass layoffs. All you need is a piece of paper

March 6, 2023, 4:37 PM UTC
Matt Mayberry is a leadership and performance expert, author, and former NFL Pro.
Courtesy of Matt Mayberry

Throughout the last three years, the state of America’s labor and workforce has experienced unprecedented volatility. The era of the Great Resignation rapidly evolved into the era of quiet quitting, and now we’re onto “career cushioning” as we all witness widespread layoffs across the nation.

Although the tech industry has seen the most massive layoffs, other industries such as banking and real estate have cut jobs and implemented workforce reduction strategies, raising concerns about the future job market and the overall economy.

Whether you recently lost your job or are still employed but dissatisfied with what you do for a living, here are five questions to ask yourself and carefully consider to find a job you actually care about.

What do you deeply care about?

This question requires consideration of both internal and external factors. The internal aspect focuses on the abilities, competencies, and causes that are most significant to you. The external aspect focuses on the activities, goals, and deeper underlying factors that excite you the most.

For instance, suppose you are a great communicator, but you are currently employed in a position that does not require you to use these skills throughout the workday. In addition to being an excellent communicator, you have a strong desire to make a difference in your local community. You have never considered pursuing a career that combines these two interests, and even if you have, you may have dismissed the idea as unrealistic.

The reality is that there is almost certainly a way to find a job that combines both factors. It requires the ability to detach from daily demands and ponder this question with optimism while addressing the reality of the situation. The simplest way to be unhappy is to do work that does not excite you in any way.

Where are you–and where do you want to be?

We have all set goals for our personal and professional lives at some point. At the start of each year, nearly everyone makes resolutions that they hope to achieve and fulfill in the coming year. The startling reality is that roughly 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them by February.

Establishing an objective is rarely an issue–but you may lack clarity regarding the current situation and the desired future. You may currently like to pursue a dream profession or job. Start calculating where you are right now and create a vision of where you want to be in vivid detail, as opposed to merely allowing this goal to remain a hopeful wish.

To put this question into practice, draw a straight line down the center of a piece of paper. Write your current situation on the left side of the paper. Your income, specific job description, level of happiness, the people you work with, energy levels, and overall career and personal development are some areas to consider. What are the advantages and disadvantages?

On the right side of the paper, begin to outline your ideal future. What does that look like? If you cannot envision the future with extreme clarity, its likelihood of coming to fruition is extremely low.

What must happen to bridge the gap?

After confronting reality and creating a vision of where you want to be, it all comes down to the specific actions that must be taken to help get to where you want to be.

Having a dream job or pursuing a job that we are passionate about requires a great deal more than just the thought alone. To be in a position for this to actually happen, a game plan outlining what steps must be taken is necessary.

In the same way that your favorite sports team has a strategy to win the game, we need a strategy to take charge of our professional lives and do meaningful work.

What do you want to stand for?

The reality is that most of our lives are spent working. The disappointment grows if we are not connected to what we do–and when it’s not aligned with what we want our lives to represent.

A job or what we do for a living should not define our lives–but the reality is that our professional and personal lives frequently overlap. The greater our unhappiness at work, the more likely it is to spill over into our personal lives.

This has less to do with what others think of you or what you do for a living and more to do with aligning your work with your personal values.

What’s your most significant area of impact?

Nothing is more gratifying than knowing that we are advancing and making a difference in the world. As the final question to ask and analyze, determine where you can have the greatest impact. Each of us has a unique set of abilities, qualities, and life experiences that can have a tremendous impact somewhere.

This is less about grand gestures or accomplishments and more about determining where your individuality and strengths can have the most impact.

This exercise will not automatically help you find a job or career that you are passionate about, but it will paint a clearer picture of what that passion job or career looks like. The greater our understanding of what that entails, the more prepared we are to pursue it.

Matt Mayberry is a leadership and performance expert, former NFL Pro, and the author of CULTURE IS THE WAY: How Leaders at Every Level Build an Organization for Speed, Impact, and Excellence.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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