You hear it all the time: in order to be successful in your career (and life), you’ve got to be passionate about what you do. However, passions won’t get you anywhere if, well, you’re not very good at them, or if you’re lacking in the kinds of supporting skills and competencies you’ll need to help you realize your dream.
Here are a few more reasons why passion is crucial for career success, and some concrete steps you can take to find a job you love:
Why You Should Love What You Do
The people in your life will give you countless good reasons for following your passion, but the truth is, it all comes down to one thing: energy. As any harried professional knows, the demands of adult life are exhausting, and if you hate your career, you’re devoting the majority of your waking hours to something that’s draining your energy away from the things that actually give you meaning.
Loving what you do means having more energy for:
1. Health and Relationships
After a soul-deadening eight to 10 hours in the office and a good two-hour commute, the last thing you’ll want to do is head to the gym or connect with your family over dinner. In contrast, a career you love will fill you with energy and give you plenty to discuss over the dinner table.
2. Other Interests and Passions
Even if you love your job, it shouldn’t define all of who you are. Instead, it should fuel you with energy so you can explore your other interests, whether that’s traveling, taking classes or attending lectures. Doing these extra activities will get you thinking about the world in different ways, which just might translate into the kind of creative thinking and insight that will give you a leg up on the job.
3. Your Career
When you love what you do, you’ll be engaged at a very deep level, which will in turn help you develop the truly creative and innovative ideas that will really help you rise in your career. As an example, think about it in terms of cooking. Most of us (in theory) can follow a recipe, but only master chefs — who engage deeply with ingredients and are passionate about experimentation and excellence — really please their audiences and move the culinary arts forward. In your career, you want to be the master chef, not the person who’s hacking at vegetables and tossing them in a pot. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Using Your Strengths to Find a Career You Love
Perhaps you already have your passion, but following it seems a sure route to financial ruin. Or maybe you’ve got lots of interests and really want to do something inspiring, but you’re having trouble determining which path would be “perfect.” (Here’s a hint: there’s no such thing.) And how are you even to know what you’re really good at it, anyway?
Here are a few key strategies for doing just that:
1. Take a Career Aptitude Test
The hunt for your passions and skills begins first and foremost with a career aptitude test and a skills and interests inventory, which will help you not only determine what you’re good at and what you enjoy, but also the difference between your core versus supporting passions and talents. This is important, because you might have a skill that would make you miserable if it were the focus of your career but will empower your passions if placed in a supporting role.
Let’s say, for example, that you have great organizational and interpersonal skills, but your true passion is making artisan bath products. These skills may make you an excellent administrative assistant, but you’ll feel even happier using them as you create your own business plan, network, market and manage to really get your passion product off the ground. A skills and interests inventory will help you identify and align your passions with your talents.
2. Give a Few Things a Try
The best way to discover where your passions and strengths will be most valuable is to give a few things a try. If you’re fresh out of college and just starting out, that could mean everything from taking on internships, to changing roles every 18 months, to even working a certain amount of hours for free for someone whose career you want to emulate.
If you’re already in the work world, consider shadowing other people in the office and moving laterally between positions to really determine what you love and what you’re great at.
3. Follow Your Curiosity
While passions should drive your major career moves, it’s actually your natural curiosity that will help you find your niche. After all, the Einsteins and Steve Jobses of the world didn’t get where they were without a deep engagement with their subject matter and constantly asking questions. This is all the more important if your strengths don’t match up exactly with your passions.
You may, for example, not be so great at cycling, but your passion for the sport may lead you into becoming a sports journalist or even an engineer who studies ergonomics and designs the very bikes those riders use to set world records. By following your natural curiosity and asking the right people the right questions, you’re far more likely to land in a destination you find intrinsically fascinating.
4. Just Choose
The most successful individuals constantly soul-search and explore throughout their career, especially as they follow their evolving interests. However, doing so isn’t the same thing as flitting from one thing to another and never really settling down. After an initial period of exploration, it’s important to just choose, knowing that there will never be such a thing as the perfect role that’s always fun to do.
Think of your job as the steady base from which you can adventure throughout your life. Eventually, you may leap up and away from that base, but you need it there as the anchor from which you can explore. And, you know… to eat.
Being passionate about what you do is key to your happiness, both in your career and in your life at large. However, it’s important to line those passions up with your strengths and the market demand so that you can really reach your maximum potential. Good luck!
How did you find your passion? Or are you still on the road to discovery?