Laura Woodward gives some advice to job hunters looking for love

Q: I am in my mid-30s and have had a variety of roles (a mixture of lab-based and management in industry). I always enjoy my work initially but I find I lose interest and start looking for the next challenge. I’d like to find something that I ‘love’ and can stick to, as I worry my CV is already getting full! Can you help?

A: Your question makes me think of the quote ‘find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’, which is probably something we all want. Finding that job is possible, but it might take time.

Firstly, don’t be too concerned about having a list of previous roles. This is quite normal at the early stage of a career, and it is natural that it might take time to find a job you really enjoy, or that you want to do for a long period of time. Spend some time considering what your next move might be, rather than jumping into something as an escape from your current role, as you are more likely to be successful in finding the right fit.


Square one

It can be difficult to know where to start when finding a new job, or even having a total career change, as there are so many possible jobs and organisations out there. I often suggest simply looking through newspapers and job adverts online (such as Chemistry World’s own jobs board) to see what roles interest you. As you highlight roles, pick out the similarities and themes. For example, they might involve working with people or applying certain technical skills. 

Also, think about your interests away from work. What are your hobbies? What excites you? Then think about whether you could incorporate these into a job. Friends and family can also provide insight into the types of jobs they could see you doing (they can often be an overlooked group when we think about our careers, but they are the ones who know us best).

As well as thinking about types of roles, it’s important to consider the type of organisation you want to be a part of. It’s hard to know what an organisation is really like until you join, but even thinking about it in general terms will help you with your job search. It could be that a small company attracts you because you can be involved in lots of different things, or you might want to work for a not-for-profit organisation because it fits with your personal values.

The book How to get a job you’ll love talks about finding your career hot buttons. This is all about  understanding what motivates you in your career.

For example:

  • Financial rewards – how important is money to you? Would you be happy with less money and a more satisfying job?
  • Influence – is being a leader important to you? Do you enjoy motivating others?
  • Expert – do you want to have a reputation as a specialist or would you rather be a jack of all trades?

Think it over

You are currently working, so you have the luxury of time to consider your options. However, sometimes we need a bit of a nudge to make a decision. If you have too much time you may just procrastinate, so set yourself some deadlines, for example: ‘In three months, I will have identified the types of jobs and organisations I am interested in.’

Of course, you should also remember that you don’t always need to look elsewhere to improve your job. Once you are settled within a role, it may become a bit routine (dare I say boring) and we think it must be time to move on, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If your role has become unsatisfying, think about the reasons why – it could be something that you could resolve. Maybe you want to develop elements of the role, or feel you need support or training in a specific skill. Speak to your line manager in the first instance and maybe link in with your human resources department to see if they can help you. Go to your manager with specific, detailed suggestions. That way they are more likely to be able to support your ideas.

You could also get involved in cross-organisation projects. That way you can increase your profile within the organisation, as well as developing skills along the way.

If you have more advice you’d like to share about this month’s question — or have your own career conundrum for Laura — please write to