How to find a job you’ll love


My homeschool blog is mentioned in the New York Times. It’s a small mention, but it’s a big deal for me, because lately I’ve been obsessed with how people learn, and what makes a successful adult. It’s appropriate that the Times would link the day I wrote about what my day is like trying to homeschool and work full-time. It’s a colossal mess, really. But it’s a work in progress.

When things got really bad — me trying to do everything, and me having marriage trouble — Melissa said, “You need a vacation.” So the boys and Melissa and I went to Hermosa Beach. We stayed at a hotel called The Beach House. It’s right on the ocean, and it’s in front of volleyball courts I used to play on when I was on the pro circuit and too poor to stay in hotels as nice as this one.

I thought the best part of the vacation would be the hotel. It’s dreamy – with a perfect balcony and a fireplace, and soft thick towels that I never had to wash.

But it turned out that the best part was watching the kids learn. The hotel was the facilitator.

The first thing the kids did was line up their Pokemon everywhere so the place felt like home.

Then we went to the ocean. I taught them about the undertow, and the way the water rises when a wave comes. And I told them that one kid dies every day in the dangers of the ocean. I made up the statistic, but I think it must be true, in some way.

I had this idea that I was not going to go in the water. I had this idea that the kids would be intimidated by the waves. But every time they got knocked over, they loved the waves more. And then I found, so did I.

When people talk about their job, they are really talking about their learning. When we say, “What do you do?” we really mean what do you learn? Because that’s what makes a person interesting – what they are learning. No one wants to answer the question what do you do if they have a job where they are not learning. That’s how you know it’s the learning that matters.

I’ve noticed that when I coach people, they are really looking for a job that will allow them to learn in the area they are most suited to learn. So, for example, an ENTJ (me) learns best while leading people. And an INFP learns best by talking one-on-one to other people. An ISTP (the Farmer) learns best using their hands. (Wondering what your personality type is? Take this free test (now defunct – but hopefully not for long).

I’m also fascinated by the impact our surroundings have on our ability to learn. So often people blame their surroundings for the fact that they are not learning, and in this case, I think the calm, peaceful surroundings made us our best learning selves. That night, Melissa edited photos, and I sorted links to research I like, and the boys read themselves to sleep, sand still spilling from their hair.

The next morning, the kids took ownership of the vacation. I thought we should go back to the beach. “We are never at the beach,” I told the kids. But my youngest son noticed the bike rental place next door to the hotel. There is such great research about how if you leave kids alone, they will learn what is best for them to learn right at that moment. And I realized, I was seeing that research in action, right now, so I gave up on my idea of going to the beach.

We moved to the farm at the time in my son’s life when he would have learned to ride a two-wheeler. But we have no roads to ride on at the farm. So he learned on the boardwalk in front of our hotel.

He fell 100 times.

It was amazing to watch him get back up on the bike, over and over again. It was also amazing to watch people watch him. People passing said, “Pedal! Pedal! That’s it!” And when he gathered some speed, people clapped and cheered.

We all love to learn and we love to watch it. We just have to find our best spot to do it. If you don’t know what job you should do next, ask yourself what you’d like to learn next. And if you don’t know that, ask yourself how you feel most comfortable learning.

You were born knowing what you’d like to learn at any given moment. When you get stuck, it’s the shoulds that hold you back — what you should be when you grow up, what you should earn, what potential you should fill — all the shoulds get in the way of you being who you really are.

We are all bike riders falling 100 times in a day.

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  1. Penny Rene INTJ
    Penny Rene INTJ says:

    I never really paid much attention to that part of my personality profile. But now that I have read it, I’m having quite the “No shit!” moment. This is very helpful, Penelope. Thanks.

  2. Annika
    Annika says:

    I’ve edited this at least 4 times now, trying to come up with a comment that isn’t so obviously me fawning over you. But I’m finding that a challenge. So I’ll just say: Thank you, Penelope. Thank you.

  3. Annika
    Annika says:

    I’ve edited this at least 4 times now, trying to come up with a comment that isn’t so obviously me fawning over you. But I’m finding that a challenge. So I’ll just say: Thank you, Penelope. Thank you.

  4. protected trust deeds
    protected trust deeds says:

    Hi this is a great article and really useful thanks Penelope. In Scotland the recession is so bad that it is becoming harder to locate the ‘dream’ job as more people turn to any job to help feed their personal debts

  5. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    It makes me feel so good to read this post.  It is insightful, thoughtful, and poetic- just like so much of your writing.  What you are saying about the learning/work connection really resonates big-time with me and I want to thank you for communicating this in such a simple and also profound way.  I think it is my favorite post of yours ever.

    As an aside- to anyone reading this who feels lost about some part of their work/life:
    I recently had a job-coaching session with Penelope, and honestly, it was amazing.  If you connect with her thoughts on this blog, I would 100% encourage you to contact her for guidance.  After our session, I felt a psychic weight lifted- I am truly more confident and clear-headed about my situation and what the heck I want to do with my life (i.e. “learn next”).  I know it wasn’t just the talking-to-a-professional that helped, either- it was her.  It felt like a kindred spirit provided the insight that I’ve been searching so long to find.  So, a big shout out to Penelope- thank you for your blog and for your assistance with helping people get closer to finding peace with themselves and in their “intersection of work and life”.  All together now, “Go….Penelope Trunk!!”

    Thanks again and very sincerely,

  6. lewiis gray
    lewiis gray says:


    Very Nice post!
    I like Your presentation way, if anyone will see your post firstly he fall in love with your post.
    Good work keep continue. 

  7. Lady Blue
    Lady Blue says:

    I can’t even tell you how much I love this post. I have always appreciated your no nonsense, realistic and to the point advice, and I’ll always keep coming back for more. As an ENTP, I find myself in constant mental limbo re: my career and “If you don’t know what job you should do next, ask yourself what you’d like to learn next” is probably the best advice someone like me could get. Total a-ha moment. Baby steps!

  8. Ingrid Schaffenburg
    Ingrid Schaffenburg says:

    Never has anyone been able to articulate so clearly to me how to choose a job. Thank you! This may very well have just changed the trajectory of my life. In a very good way.

  9. Ingrid Schaffenburg
    Ingrid Schaffenburg says:

    Never has anyone been able to articulate so clearly to me how to choose a job. Thank you! This may very well have just changed the trajectory of my life. In a very good way.

  10. The Reporter
    The Reporter says:

    Learning is the only way to create career longevity.   Your company could go bankrupt, but if you keep learning new things in your field, monitor the direction where people and technology are going, you can be proactive and stay employed even in bad economic climates.  By learning you’ll always have ideas.  Implementing ideas and sharing ideas creates career longevity.   Learning is the starting point of fresh thinking.

  11. Gordon Chen
    Gordon Chen says:

    Everyone should undertake the myer briggs test, because if you dont know yourself you dont really know others. If you know yourself you’ll ‘find the job you love’

    Using animals as an analogy if you’re a lion and made to hunt, but you are placed in a cold location like Canda and made to perform in a circus, you are going to crack sooner or later!
    This is the same for your Career, the right environment brings out the best of us and encourages learning + growth, the wrong environment creates misery.

  12. Mathereze
    Mathereze says:

    Being a working mother for almost 20 years now, I could relate myself on your post.  Just glad I made sure I never missed a single important event my kids have in school or in church so matter how occupied I am in my work.

  13. aiclark
    aiclark says:

    I think the idea that working is learning is spot on! I have switched careers three times now and have gone back to school to help with yet another switch. (I’m not ADD; they are all somewhat related.) I think learning is important for anyone to reach their true potential as an employee. When you get bored with the same old thing, you don’t produce as well.n Humans are a very curious species and have a real need to satisfy that curiosity.

  14. seo
    seo says:

    Appreciating the persistence you put into your blog and detailed information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  15. Lexi
    Lexi says:


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  16. mkukok
    mkukok says:

    In Europe, high schoolers are encouraged to take a gap year or two to go grow up and figure out who you are, before commiting time and money to persuing a degree. I wanted to be a chef and worked in a kitchen for a year before quickly realising that my scholarship to Corden Bleu would be a complete waste of time as reality did not live up to dream. I sat down with my mother and tried to figure out what my desires to do with my life were and what I had real interest in. I wanted to travel more than anything, but I also wanted a roof over my head and a guarantee of long term employment. I chose nursing and have traveled and worked all over the world. I have switched career within career as oportunities to learn new skills came up. I can honestly say that I have been rarely bored, and if I have felt unfulfilled I have changed direction or field. Its a shame that gap years arent encouraged in the USA, I believe that a year spent exploring the world or holding down a job will clarify collage choices for a lot of students and would be gainfully employed graduates.

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