Roman Krznaric has been a journalist, college professor, gardener, carpenter, tennis coach and community worker.
It may seem like a scattered CV, but Krznaric seems more than happy, especially with his current role as founder of The School of Life, a cultural enterprise that teaches classes on such subjects as “How to Be Confident” and “How to Make Love Last.”
His only regret? That he hung onto certain jobs too long when he didn’t enjoy them.
His latest book, “How to Find Fulfilling Work,” not surprisingly, advocates taking a bold and varied approach to picking out the right job.
We convinced Krznaric to take a break from finishing up his next book to talk to us about how everyday people like you can find truly meaningful careers. Hint: It’s not the way you might think.
LearnVest: In your opinion, what is wrong with the way most people view their ideal careers?
Roman Krznaric: A lot of people think that we each have a single vocation that’s just waiting out there for us to discover. If only we could have an epiphany. But the reality is that most people don’t have those epiphanies. We don’t find our vocations; we grow them through experiments.
Vincent van Gogh wasn’t always a painter. He started out as an art dealer, then he was an elementary school teacher and an evangelical teacher in the Belgian coal mines before he came across drawing and painting. But he did a lot of experimenting before he got there.
So the path to the perfect career isn’t as straight as we’ve been led to believe?
The biggest mistake people tend to make when thinking about finding a new career is following the “plan and implement” model of change. You spend a lot of time researching different industries. You draw up lists of personal strengths, weaknesses and ambitions. You match your profile to particular professions, and then start sending out applications. But you haven’t done any experiential learning—you haven’t stepped into the real world by doing things like job shadowing, interning or volunteering. What we really need to do is act first and reflect later.
Should everyone aim to have a diverse career like yours?
For some people, there is one thing. They decide that they want to be a veterinarian when they’re six—and that’s all they want to do. But an increasing proportion of people are feeling that plowing a relatively narrow furrow isn’t nurturing the many sides of who they are. For those people, it’s worth thinking about trying to achieve wide instead of high—that is, do several jobs at the same time.