The other day I had a conversation with a prospective client who was mulling over his career options after having been laid-off from his job as a marketing executive.
When I asked him what type of work he might like to pursue next, his response was, "You know, I'm really not sure."
Then after pausing for a moment he added, "But I do know one thing. I'd rather do something boring with people I love, than an interesting job around people I can't stand."
I admired his candor. And I respected his innate understanding of one of the most important, but often overlooked, keys to finding work you love. When you love the people you work with - whether they are clients, colleagues, bosses or vendors - you will likely enjoy your job.
Conversely, if your co-workers are boring, irritating or abrasive, then you will be equally likely to quickly grow tired with your career. Of course other work-related factors like salary, job-duties and industry focus impact your happiness. But the people part of our work matters far more than most of us realize.
So how do you find work that allows you to spend time with people you like?
I realize this sounds painfully obvious, but you'd be amazed by the number of people who have only a vague sense of the type of people they most appreciate at work.
What types of personalities do you most enjoy on the job? Make a list that summarizes your "dream team" characteristics and keep that list top of mind as you network, interview and explore new options.
Keep in mind that the traits you most admire in your friends (spontaneity, candor, a raucous sense of humor, etc.) might be quite different from the characteristics you would enjoy most in a co-worker.
Different industries tend to attract different personality types. Advertising favors creatives, healthcare attracts nurturers and colleges appeal to intellectuals.
If you're not sure what types of industries are the best fit for your personality type, consider taking the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) or one of the other career assessment instruments that help you better understand the link between your personality and career options.
Find ways to test out your compatibility with potential clients, co-workers or colleagues, before committing yourself to a career change: attend a conference; sign up for a workshop; take a class; interact with people on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook or volunteer your services in a new industry.
Taking the time to meet new people will help to widen your network of potential employers and expand your options for self-employment.
Remember, these are the people you are going to spend a considerable amount of time with in the future. If you plan to work for twenty more years, you'll potentially be clocking over 40,000 hours with your colleagues.
A little bit of upfront planning can help you identify the types of personalities that can help transform a ho-hum job into a far more enjoyable, meaningful and fulfilling work experience.
Nancy Collamer, M.S.,is a career coach, speaker, and author of the new book Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement (Random House, 2013). In private practice since 1996, Nancy gained national prominence in her tenure as the Career Transitions columnist for Oxygen Media. She has spoken at venues ranging from Harvard Business School to the California Governors Conference on Women. Please connect with Nancy on Twitter @NancyCollamer and on her website at MyLifestyleCareer.com.