In order to find the business that will make you happy you first need to get a really good understanding of yourself, what you and enjoy and what you don’t, what your values are and what you want to achieve.
Sources of information about you
Past work experience
The obvious place to start is your past work experience. Begin by listing all the jobs that you’ve done, if you’ve moved about a lot it might be a long list so don’t worry if you can’t remember them all. Next go through the list and for each job ask yourself what you liked about it and why, and what you didn’t like about it and why. For example, perhaps you have worked as a hairdresser, you might look back and think how much you hated it but it’s important to consider why you hated it. Let’s say that it made you feel very tense and when you asked yourself why you realised it was the responsibility of cutting someone’s hair and the fear that they might not like it. From this we know that you’re probably not suited to a business where you could potentially have a negative effect on someone’s life and where you might make people angry. It’s also important to consider what you liked about a job, even if it’s something you hated it’s likely that something about it appealed to you in the first place. In our hairdressing example it might have been the creative aspect that was appealing. Once you’ve been through your list of jobs (and businesses if you’ve run any before) use the information to create a list of things you want to avoid and things you’d like in a business.
Hobbies and interests
Your hobbies and interests are a rich source of information about who you are and what you enjoy. Many people would rather keep their hobby and there work separate for fear of ruining their enjoyment of their hobby while some people are keen to turn it in to a business. Begin by listing all the spare time activities that you do now and that you’ve done in the past. As you did with your past jobs, go through the list and identify what it is about the hobby you enjoy. For example, if running is one of your hobbies it might be because you enjoy the sense of freedom it gives you, is a sense of freedom something you would like from a job? It’s also useful to consider the hobbies you know longer do. For example, perhaps in the past you tried upholstery but no longer do it, the reason might be that you don’t have the time which doesn’t tell us anything useful however the reason might be that you found it too physically demanding and so you might want to avoid jobs that put too much physical strain on you. When you’ve finished you can add what you’ve learned to your list.
It’s also useful to think back to your education if you can, weather it was school, college or university. Write a list of the subjects you remember studying and note next to each weather it was something you enjoyed and were good at or not. Then go through the list and for the subjects you enjoyed write down what skills you used that made you good at it and for the subjects you weren’t so good at write down the skills you lacked to do well in it. For example, you might have done well in English and it was your writing skills that made you good at it and fashion and textiles might have been your worst subject because you weren’t good with your hands. Now add the skills you are good at to the “Things I’d like in a business” list and add the skills you lack to the things you’d like to avoid list. There is an assumption here that you enjoy doing things you are good at but if there are things you do well but don’t enjoy, then leave them off the list.
Friends and family
The other great source of information you can use is friends and family. Often those closest to you will have noticed things about you that you have missed and hearing their views can give you a fresh perspective on yourself. Identify some people you trust, they might be relatives, friends or even work colleagues, and ask them to answer the questions below. It is important to ask a range of different people in your life to answer the questions as one person’s view might well be bias.
What three words would you use to describe me?
What are my three most useful skills?
What is my greatest strength?
What is my greatest weakness? (optional)
This exercise can sometimes be surprising so be prepared to re-examine some of your beliefs about yourself, this might be painful but it’s a necessary step in finding the right path to take. It can be tough if, for example, you’ve always considered yourself to be creative and no one mentions it in response to the questions. Take some time to think about it though because if you’re basing your business around a skill that isn’t one of your greatest then you’re not likely to do well in it which may in turn make you unhappy.
The question about your greatest weakness is optional, it can yield useful information in terms of things you want to avoid in your career choice or highlight an area that needs development but it can also be painful to hear so only include it if you have people who’s opinion you respect to answer your questions.
If you’ve got a business idea in mind it can be useful to imagine yourself applying for the role of running it, would your knowledge, skills, experience and passion get you the job?