Let’s face it: Adulting is hard. You have responsibilities, bills to pay, and people who depend on you. And meeting those obligations means one thing: You need a J-O-B. But a job should be about more than just making those monthly ends meet. It should also be about finding work that works for you. Above all, work should not just be about your livelihood. It should be about your life, the kind of life you deserve, the kind of life worth living.
What that means, for most of us, is finding work that is deeply rewarding but without being all-consuming. The good news is that building a fulfilling career that allows you to achieve that ideal work-life balance isn’t a mere matter of luck. It’s about strategy and commitment. It’s about putting an action plan in place today to help you achieve the life you want for all the tomorrows to come. This article will show you how.
Determine your goals and priorities
Work-life balance is a great concept, but the truth is it’s going to mean different things to different people. For some people, an ideal work-life balance is one where you get 8 hours in 5 days a week and then get to forget about work completely on nights and weekends.
For others, a work-life balance might not be determined by the clock at all. It might mean finding a career you love, one that inspires and excites you so much you don’t mind busting that 40-hour-per-week threshold, but at the same time allows you to pursue other interests and to enjoy downtime when you need and want it. After all, even the most dedicated professionals need regular mental health breaks, not to mention the opportunity to enjoy the things they love outside of the realm of work.
So, the first thing you need to do is sit down and make a list of your goals and your priorities. Ask yourself what the ideal work/home balance means for you. Once you have a clearer vision of what your best and happiest tomorrow should look like, you can set about building the kind of career that will make that vision a reality.
Workin’ hard or hardly workin’?
As we’ve seen, your ideal job is going to very much depend on what your life goals and priorities are. But no matter how, exactly, you define work-life balance, some industries are celebrated both for the rewarding nature of the work and for the quality of life (and balance) their workers enjoy.
The healthcare industry is an obvious choice. These jobs are always in demand and they pay well, meaning you’re not going to have to work around the clock just to earn enough to keep the lights on and a roof over your family’s head. Best of all, you get to earn a living making a real difference in people’s lives. Plus, there’s so much variety in the healthcare industry, you’re sure to find something that suits your particular interests and skills. That variety also means you get to choose how much time, money, and energy you want to invest in training and preparation, from an 18-month medical assisting program to a four-year nursing degree to postgraduate medical degrees.
The healthcare industry is far from your only option if you’re looking for a great job and a fulfilling personal life outside of work. In fact, one of the best ways to find the balance you’re looking for may well be to strike out on your own.
Freelancing, independent contracting, and even starting your own small business can be the perfect way for creating the work-life you’re looking for. For example, the tech industry is terrific if you’re into computers and attracted by the thought of being your own boss because so many tech jobs, from software development to cybersecurity, are outsourced to independent contractors. And the work can be done from almost anywhere, whether in the comfort of your own home office or in-house with your clients.
It’s not just tech, though, that can be an entrepreneur’s dream. The creative industries are also ideal for building a business that enables you to find harmony between your personal and professional life. Enjoy home decorating? Consider freelancing as an interior design consultant. Have a way with words? Why not contract as a content writer and editor?
Whether you’re based in tech or a creative field, it’s important to remember that starting your own business takes a significant amount of time and effort during the initial stages. A work-life balance will be hard to attain at first, especially if you start a small business like a brick-and-mortar store that requires staff other than yourself. However, once the business is on its feet and has correctly-trained staff and boundaries set in place, you’ll be able to delegate tasks accordingly, allowing you to back off slightly and focus on other aspects of the business which will ultimately help you reach the work-life balance you’re trying to attain.
Making it happen
Your work isn’t done, though, once you’ve figured out what you need to live your best and most harmonious life. It’s just beginning because now you will need to start taking proactive steps to make that dream a reality. The first step will be to identify any training you may need or any gaps in your skillset that you’ll need to fill, whether through formal degree programs or online certification courses.
Next, you need to make your resume irresistible, and that means, above all, figuring out how your specific skill set aligns with the job you’re seeking. Now is not the time to hide your light. Instead, unabashedly sing your own praises. Show your prospective employer why they need you and be as precise and specific as possible. Let them see the value that only you can bring, not just in terms of previous work experience, but all outstanding career achievements.
And remember that you need to do this even if you are freelancing or contracting. Presenting a top-of-the-line resume, along with a portfolio and a website highlighting your best work, is the perfect way to start building your client base.
Finally, once that’s done and you’re embarked on the career of your dreams, be careful not to lose sight of the vision that brought you to this place. Whether you’re an employee or an entrepreneur, don’t forget to prioritize your mental health. As you build your new career, don’t fall prey to the temptation to compromise the work-life balance you’ve fought so hard to achieve.
Achieving the ideal work-life balance can sometimes feel impossible in these chaotic times. But the benefits far outweigh the effort. The key is to figure out what you want, make a plan, and then put it into action.
About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.
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