Book Review: “How to Find Fulfilling Work” by Roman Krznaric

Meaningful work that provides a deep sense of purpose and fully utilizes an individual’s talents has become a key component of a satisfying life. Unfortunately, so many career options are available that finding one that is personally fulfilling can be an elusive goal. This concise little book provides a roadmap for achieving that goal.

How to Find Fulfilling Work includes anecdotal case studies that show how people have organized their lives around fulfilling work. There are also exercises and quizzes designed to help readers define and reach career goals. What sets this book apart is its use of philosophy, literature and history to create a wider frame of reference. Even those who are familiar with the self-help genre will find fresh perspectives in stories from the lives of Michelangelo, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie, Henry David Thoreau, Zorba the Greek and other historical and literary figures.

Author Roman Krznaric begins by listing five dimensions of meaningful work: money, status, passion, making a difference and using our talents. He then examines each dimension in detail and points out some of the hazards that come from being motivated by money and status rather than more intrinsic motivators, like the desire to make a difference in the world. "We have entered a new age of fulfillment, in which the great dream is to trade up from money to meaning," he writes.

Teachers and guidance counselors can draw on the material in this book for lesson ideas or use the book as a reading assignment for high school and college students. Of particular interest is Krznaric's examination of personality tests that are often used for career guidance. These tests attempt to link personality traits with suitable career fields. For example, the best-fit occupations for someone who is introverted, intuitive and analytical are supposedly engineer, management consultant and IT professional. Krznaric points out that these tests don't acknowledge the fact that many people possess opposite personality traits (such as being introverted in some situations and extroverted in others). Personality tests also fail to factor in a person's degree of passion for an occupation, yet careers that are centered on passion are often the most fulfilling.

Krznaric also focuses on the burden placed on teenage students who must make educational choices that seem to lock them into a lifelong career. Following college graduation, many people find themselves dissatisfied with their career but reluctant to veer from their chosen path because of their educational investment. The book includes several examples of people who have leveraged their education in a new field or have gone back to school to gain more skills to begin a more meaningful career. Krznaric says that staying in an unfulfilling career can cause more lifetime regret than deciding to switch careers midstream. For students who are paralyzed by the sheer number of career options available, knowing that they don't need to be restricted by career choices they make at a young age can be liberating.

Krznaric is a founding faculty member of The School of Life, a "cultural enterprise" based in London that applies philosophy to issues that arise from everyday living. This book is part of the school's six-volume practical philosophy series. By combining philosophy and practical advice with an easy-to-read writing style, Krznaric both challenges and educates the reader without sounding overly preachy.

Whether you're between jobs, thinking about making a career switch or deciding on a post-graduation career, this wise little book will provide valuable insights into the quest for meaningful employment.


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