Whether you’re fresh out of school or university, or several years into your working life, you’ve probably spent some time wondering what it is you’re ‘meant’ to be doing. We’re told so many times by so many people to ‘follow your heart’, ‘turn your passion into a career’ and ‘get paid to do what you love’, but the pressure to identify what that is can be stifling. What if we don’t have a passion? What if what we love to do most is to sleep late, watch Netflix and eat cookies? More importantly, the single biggest obstacle in taking this approach to assessing your career options is the implication that we all have the answer somewhere inside us – that we just need to concentrate a bit harder on working it out, and suddenly the path to professional satisfaction will appear before us! This isn’t true. And the pursuit of ‘passion equals profession’ isn’t going to work for the vast majority of us.
The problem comes when we look at people we deem to be highly successful in their chosen fields – undoubtably, the majority of them (if not all) are passionate about what they do. But – and here’s the important bit – most of them weren’t passionate about that area before they worked in it. So for them, passion didn’t lead to profession – it was the total opposite. Take Steve Jobs for example. He was passionate about Zen Buddhism, history and dance when he was younger! He went into technology as a way to make some quick money. Condoleeza Rice was a talented classical musician before she started studying politics. Both of them developed a passion for their work by finding what they enjoyed in the fields they found themselves in.
So, park the ‘passion equals profession’ philosophy for a moment, and take a look at these five ingredients for a refreshing ‘profession equals passion’ approach to finding your ideal job:
1. Work that holds your interest and attention
The bottom line is that your job satisfaction will come from how you feel about what you do, hour by hour, in your role. Work that holds your attention and gives you a sense of flow is a positive experience for all of us. It’s why we can lose ourselves in a film or spend hours playing computer games without noticing the time fly by, while editing a spreadsheet can make a 30-minute job feel like eternity. To keep us interested and engaged, we also need the freedom and autonomy to choose what we’re working on, clear tasks with variety, and regular feedback so we know how we’re doing.
2. Work that helps others
Just being interested in a variety of engaging tasks isn’t enough – we also need to feel like what we’re doing is meaningful. Most studies will show that we develop a deep sense of satisfaction from our working lives if we are helping others in some way. That doesn’t mean we all need to be doctors or charity workers – we just need to understand and believe in the difference our work is making to someone else. Helping others is widely accepted by researchers as one of the most powerful routes to a meaningful career.
3. Work you’re good at
Being good at what you do unsurprisingly gives you a sense of achievement (another huge indicator of life satisfaction), but it also gives you the power to negotiate for other elements that help us feel fulfilled at work, like juicier projects or better perks. Skill trumps passion – you might love pottery, but if your pieces resemble a primary school craft show, you’re never going to find satisfaction in a career in that field. That’s not to say you should only do things you’re good at – but you should definitely only do things you have the potential to be good at.
4. Work with people you like
You don’t need to be friends with everyone, but having people at work you like and enjoy being around can make a huge difference. Relationships play a vital role in life satisfaction so this makes sense. Even people you don’t get on with can be useful people to learn from (assuming they’re constructive in how they share their differing opinions!). A bad boss or a spiteful colleague could ruin even the most ‘perfect’ of jobs. So use the job interview to find out more about your prospective line manager and colleagues – they will be a vital part of how much you enjoy the job.
5. Work that fits your life
You need to look at how a job will fit in with the rest of your life. You might have commitments outside of work that mean flexibility in hours is non-negotiable, or you might just need a job to pay the bills while you focus your efforts and energy on something else (whether that’s caring for someone, volunteering or an exciting side hustle). We all have to be realistic about what work is right for us at any one time, and it will change throughout our lives. As we all emerge from the pandemic, it’s likely that our attitudes to work are changing and we’ll prioritise different things – working from home will undoubtedly become a more important option, as might working closer to home when we do have to go into the office. We certainly need to be mindful of these things when we’re considering our next role.
In a nutshell - don’t focus too much on money and stress (other than meeting your basic needs for both), and don’t endlessly self-reflect to find your one true passion. If you don’t have an obvious passion for something that you’re highly skilled at (and which could lead to a viable career), stop flogging a dead horse. Just get good at something that helps others and you’ll find real satisfaction in your work.
If you ask any of us, you’ll find no-one here spent their childhood dreaming of working in recruitment (I don’t think there was a Recruitment Consultant Barbie?), but we LOVE what we do because, for us, it’s a mix of all the ingredients above. We’re engaged, we’re making a difference to people’s lives, we’re good at it, we like our colleagues and we can work flexibly around our other commitments. If you’d like us to help you find your dream job, please give us a call on 01932 355000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.