So Why Don't You Have Your Dream Job Yet?

Executive recruiter James Citrin explains the employment triangle and the trappings of finding your dream job.

James Citrin: It’s a pretty good market for college grads coming in, but it's never good when you're the one trying to find a job because it's really hard.Here's the thing about jobs, there are three forces that are at fundamental war with one another all the time.

There’s the job quality, the job satisfaction, the inherit attributes of the job. And that is are you working on something fundamentally important and meaningful? Are you learning? Are you growing? Are you working with people who you can really like and respect? Is the culture something you're very comfortable with, all the inherent things about the job. That's one aspect.

Then there's money, of course. Compensation sometimes is at very much odds with something that is genuinely meaning or creative or fundamentally interesting and how do you weigh the differences between looking to make the kind of money that will help you pay back student loans, much less live the lifestyle you want to live.

And actually speaking of lifestyle, that's the third dimension, lifestyle. Lifestyle is where you want to live and where you want to work. How much your work schedule is in your control, control over your work schedule. How much flexibility to take vacations? Do you have to commute? And how were your actual hours?

So if you think about those three points and what I call the career triangle, job satisfaction, money and lifestyle, it's relatively easy to maximize one point on the triangle and it's often okay to maximize the second, but usually the third point slips.

So, you're interested in the law and you get a good job in a law firm and you're making good money, but you know what, you have to work weekends, you have to work 90 hours a week. Or your fundamentally interested in the financial markets and you're really into deals and you're working on lots of different things, and also good interest, good money but terrible lifestyle. Or you played college tennis and you love tennis, you love teaching and so you're really a tennis pro and you have a great flexible lifestyle but it's hard to make money that way. Or you're passionate about the environment and you get this great opportunity to work for a not for profit so you have a good lifestyle, you're working on important things but you're not making money. At least recognizing that there are trade-offs is really powerful. And what I like to say is you can have it all those three dimensions, but not necessarily at the same time and certainly not in your first job or two or three coming out of college. 

It ’s okay to be honest with yourself to say what are the most important things to me now? And by the way, over your life when you're in your 20s, when you're in your 30s, when you're raising a family, the weightings on those three points can and actually will shift. And knowing that will help you make good career decisions over the course of your career. 

People graduating in 2016 and 2017 are going to likely work for 15 or 20 different companies or organizations over their career. And the key is just getting started and not waiting or trying to get perfection. And if you keep those trade-offs in mind and kind of consciously know what you're moving into then at least you're getting there.

Now you know that the first thing you do you will actually have massive downstream effects because who you get exposed to, what brand you get affiliated with, who you meet and what you actually are working on, that will become kind of the basis of your next job and your next job and your next job. So yes it is very important, but at the same time it's two easy to get paralyzed looking for perfection versus just getting in there. And your story will evolve based on what you're doing. And it's important to you to kind of control your career narrative. It's like here's why I did this and here's therefore what I learned and here's what I'm looking for.


It is incredibly difficult to get a job these days. Everyone is looking, feels like few are hiring. College graduates coming out in the next few years are the children of the recession, who know full well that no job is guaranteed and no job is forever. So these graduates are likely to work at at approximately 15-20 companies, rather than just one, over the course of the years.

According to James Citrin (senior director of Spencer Stuart, Leader of the North American CEO Practice, and author of seven books), there are three main points to look at while job hunting – and they’re all in reference to which place would make you happier.

The first thing to consider is the job quality. Is this the kind of job that will be creative, active, meaningful, and does it have room to grow? The work you do could actually lead to a more fulfilling life. Or it could not, instead leading to that last-thought-before-bed panic, dreading the carbon copy torture that you’ll re-live all over again tomorrow.

The second thing to consider is the job’s pay. This kind of thing can sometimes be at odds with whether or not the job is fulfilling. Sometimes meaningful work doesn’t pay well, and conversely soul sucking positions come with a nice salary. That’s a line every person needs to draw for themselves – what is good for their lifestyle versus what is good for their sense of purpose.

Finally, a person needs to consider what kind of lifestyle they want to live. Do you want to drop everything at 5:30pm and go home, or would you be okay working a 90-hour week? Do you get vacation, benefits, sick leave, time with your family or friends? Can you deal with constant stress? Maybe you thrive under that kind of mission? Someone may be willing to perform less idealistic work with better pay to have the lifestyle they want. Others, if they want a more fulfilling job that aligns with their worldview are willing to forego the fancy vacations.

Citrin calls it the career triangle, and throughout your career and all your various jobs, you can probably have one of those things – satisfaction, money, lifestyle – you can maybe even have two, but three is a big and rare dream to pull off. That’s not to say it’s not possible, reach for the stars, of coure, but according to Citrin the key to achieving balance and happiness is awareness of your situation, and knowing that perhaps not much money is okay now, but your priorities and needs with shift later, and you may have to forgo meaningful work for money. You can have it all, he says, but you can’t have it all at once.

James Citrin's book isThe Career Playbook.

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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?

Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

In their findings the authors state:

"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.

Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."

With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

  • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
  • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
  • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
  • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
  • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
  • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
  • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,

Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

It's interesting to note the authors found that:

"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
  • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

  • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
  • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
  • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
  • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
  • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
  • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

Civic discourse in the divisive age

Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.

Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.