Ikigai—Find Your Career Sweet Spot

Ikigai—Find Your Career Sweet Spot

The 4 questions that every professional, especially job seekers, should ask themselves.


By Dr. Brad Fanger, STEM career coach, Great Fit Coaching

“What is the best next step for my career?”

This is something everyone should consider. For job seekers, it is the first question you should ask as part of your job search.

The answer should involve doing what you are passionate about. You are designed to do this. You are good at doing what you are passionate about.

So, what excites you?

How can you get paid doing it?

Ikigai – pronounced “icky guy” – can help you figure this out.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that everyone is born with a natural purpose for their life (their Ikigai). If you can discover and live your unique Ikigai, your life will be filled with great satisfaction and meaning. It is your career sweet spot.

How does ikigai work?

Spend time contemplating the four ikiga questions:

  1. What do you love?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What can you get paid for?
  4. What does the world need?

Once you answer these questions, look at where they all overlap. This is your ikigai, or career sweet spot.


David Watts Barton talks about the 4 questions.

What do you love, what is your passion? This question gets at a great motivator in life. What would you do if you won the lottery and didn’t have to make money? After the sports car and dream vacation, how would you just follow your heart?

What are you good at? This question leads to your vocation. For some, the answer is similar to the answer to the first question, but for others, it is not. It is a more practical question; less emotional. We all know on some level what we are good at. We may want to be an actor, that is our passion, but we find ourselves pushed into being the person who runs the box office instead, because we’re good at it. This is our vocation.

What does the world need from you? It is, ultimately, the question of what your mission is. Why are you here on earth? What can you achieve that will help others, that will make you valuable socially, that will make the world a better place? Explore what others value about you; aspects of yourself that you may not see as valuable.

What can you get paid for? What is your profession? It is a variation on the third question, but focusing on money. What do others value about you enough to give you money to do? If the world needs it but is not willing to pay you for it, it is charity work, not your profession.

Love golf? Are you good enough to make a living at it? If so, this could be your dream career. If not, golf is your hobby. You’ll need to find another way to make a living (which will support your golfing).

Love biology and art? How do they intersect into a career?

  • Consider be an illustrator for technical textbooks
  • Maybe you can analyze stained biological slides; your ability to see subtle differences in colors and discern the biological relevance could make you a star

Love music and psychology? Explore being a music therapist.

Ikiagi can help you identify your unique set of skills and interests so you can develop them into a career you will love and do well at.

Bradford O. Fanger, PhD

Great Fit Coaching


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