Three simple steps that tell the difference between a job you like and a job you love

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Lizzie Penny, Co-founder and Joint CEO of Huckleberry Partners breaks down the three steps you need to take to land a job you absolutely love

Finding a job that puts a spring in your step changes work from being a burden to a defining characteristic - something that energises and inspires you.

While I love what I do, a huge 60% of UK workers are not happy in their jobs. Most of us spend more time with their colleagues or in their workplace than we do with friends, partners or children, so why are so many of us prepared to settle?

At a time when we are living longer and working longer, we should look at our careers as a long game. We shouldn’t be afraid to keep looking and trying new tactics until we find the perfect fit for us.

Yes, jobs are about salary, responsibility, and title, but also fulfillment and the opportunity to learn. 

We want to achieve balance in our personal lives and work for a leader we admire. There’s much more to work than just the money; once we find a job that pays enough for us to live the life we want, then we all inevitably start looking for more from our careers.

So how do you find the perfect job? There are three steps:

1. Understand your purpose 

Ten years ago I was doing the marketing for Pimm’s a job I was really interested in, on a brand I was passionate about, with responsibilities that stretched and rewarded me in equal measure. I had both the freedom to try new things and the support to make sure I was always learning, not to mention surrounded by a fantastic group of colleagues, many of whom I now count among my closest friends.

And yet something wasn’t quite right. On paper it was the perfect job for me but when I was in it, I didn’t love it. I didn’t feel that I was put on this planet to sell booze (though I’m a big fan), so I took some time to reflect, and left the stability of my FTSE100 employer and went off to start my own business.

Nobody can find a job they love without first understanding what their definition of ‘success’ is. For me it meant making my mark in some way, and driving social change while having the freedom to do my own thing, in spite of the risks that came with it. I had always seen myself as a big business kind of girl, but actually I get more satisfaction from having social influence and control over my own time, rather than simply progressing up a predetermined hierarchy. I wanted my work to have meaning for me personally, to feel deeply connected to the cause. At my company, we believe that many people have transferable skills, and that having a heartfelt passion for something can often be more valuable than experience in that particular sector.

Everyone is different, every job is different, and understanding yourself and exactly what you are looking for is the first step towards happiness. Perhaps start by thinking about the things that fascinate you and that you love learning about in your spare time. Consider the jobs that exist in that sector - how can you take your experience and apply it there? It may allow you to find something that connects with your purpose, and makes you feel fundamentally fulfilled. Also think about the people you admire: what is it about what they do and the values they have that has earned your respect? Can you find a way to connect those values to the work you do?

As soon as you discover that personal connection then work stops being a job. It becomes a source of inspiration and you find you are able to inspire those around you. Ultimately, it’s about our time and how we choose to spend it. Thinking deeply about how we want to be spending that time is crucial to finding something we love.

You know you’ve found it when: people ask you ‘how’s your job going?’ in the pub on New Year’s Eve and you give them a longer answer than just ‘fine thanks’.

2. Consider your life outside work 

We are all unique individuals. We have hobbies, passions, families and preferences. Being able to fit our careers around these, and work in our own ‘workstyle’ is something we fight for across the board at Huckleberry Partners, the company I co-founded. With the prevalence of the wi-fi and the portability of laptops many of us can now truly choose when and where we work, provided we find the right employer or working structure to facilitate it.

My workstyle is four days a week, 8am-3pm and then two evenings, which means I can spend the rest of my time with my two-year-old son. Working these hours doesn’t compromise how good I am at my job. In fact it does the opposite - when I’m at work, I think I’m better at it. If you do a job you love and it balances with the aspects of your life outside work, then your head is more in the game when you’re working. You’re motivated and happy in the knowledge you still have time to pursue your interests outside of work to go to that Christmas lunch with your friends, or have a lie-in after that big night out.

In pursuit of true work happiness this means finding a company, role or work setup with a culture that believes in this, and can match the flexibility which is important to you personally. Of course, your priorities and life factors change over time so finding a role that perfectly compliments your life will need to be reviewed from time to time to make sure it still fits.

You know you’ve found it when: sometimes you get the Sunday evening buzz rather than the Sunday evening blues.

3. Search for true love

Applying for jobs is like dating. Once you’ve discovered what you’re looking for in your perfect role, you then need to read a few profiles and meet a few prospective matches to find the one. And when you find it, somehow it just feels right. You heart beats a little faster and you know that it’s the one that could change everything for the better.

I love my job, and I find it hard to believe I would ever want to do anything else. I used to say I was very lucky to work on something I am so passionate about and connected to every day, but in all honesty I think we make our own luck. If you can take the time for some self reflection and then make that dream a reality, then truly loving your job can be the reward.

Steve Jobs summed it up perfectly saying “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it”.

If you treat looking for a job like looking for a partner, and don’t settle until you’ve found true love, then life promises to be much sweeter.

So when you raise your glass to welcome in 2016, set yourself the challenge this year to find your perfect match. 

You know you’ve found it when: your job brings out the best in you. You're fascinated, stretched, fulfilled and, above all else, you’re happy.

Lizzie Penny is co-founder and Joint CEO of Huckleberry Partners, and founder and joint CEO of Futureproof, as well as a Non-Executive Director at the Ethical Fashion Forum. Find out more at and

Photos: ThinkStock