Is Finding A Career You’re Passionate About Overrated?

​ Some people are passionate about their work from day one. Perhaps they felt a calling to a particular field and never wavered from it. Others stumble into a job and happily discover that it’s a perfect fit for their personalities and talents. Then there are those like me. When I started working in accounting, I realized early on that I was good at it. However, I didn’t love my work or leave the office feeling deeply fulfilled. It was fine and the job paid the bills, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, I eventually realized I couldn’t spend an entire career in a capacity I didn’t love.

Is Passion for Your Work Overrated?

After becoming a recruiter, I discovered what it meant to be passionate about your work. I’ve been in recruiting for 20 years now, and my career is built on real love for what I do. A lot of people talk about passion these days, to the point that the media is saturated with it. You might even wonder whether passion for your work is overrated. After all, it’s a job, right? If you’re not completely miserable and you earn enough to support your family and take some time off on the weekends, do you really need more than that? I argue that you do. Not hating your job shouldn’t be your standard for professional satisfaction. Being passionate about your work transforms your outlook and performance. Showing up to work becomes fun, something to look forward to rather than a rote activity you do on autopilot, or worse, dread. When you encounter challenges — and there are always challenges, even if you love what you do — you’re more resilient and committed than if you were just there to collect a paycheck. Doing work you love brings joy to your life and motivates you to view progress in new ways. You’ll always be looking for ways to learn and grow, even within your current role, and will be less reliant upon promotions to find inspiration. Because you’re engaged in your work, you’ll seek out new opportunities within your current position.

What Would You Do If You Didn’t Have to Work?

If you’ve been feeling restless in your job and are trying to discern your passion, ask yourself: what would I do if I didn’t have to work? Set aside the financial question and focus on the things that inspire and motivate you. People like Mark Zuckerberg and LeBron James don’t have to work. They’ve earned enough money for a lifetime (maybe two). But they continue working because they’re passionate about what they do. It’s part of who they are. While everyone can’t be Mark Zuckerberg, it’s worth thinking about how you spend your time. In a given work week, you spend more time with your boss and coworkers than you do with friends and family. Shouldn’t you make sure those are people who enhance your life rather than drain your energy? And don’t you want to spend those hours also doing something that’s meaningful to you?

Admitting the Honeymoon Is Over

People often become so accustomed to their day-to-day work routines, it takes them years to realize they’re not entirely satisfied with their careers. In some ways, starting a career is like beginning a relationship. You’re offered a good job and are enamored with the competitive salary, generous vacation time, and all the other perks. Sure, the job isn’t the most appealing position you’ve ever heard of, but you’re willing to give it a try. Before you know it, you’ve developed an entire lifestyle around this job and this income level. It becomes tough to admit the romance is gone, especially once you’ve committed so many years of your life to this path. But the truth is, you were never really in love with this career in the first place. Real love endures; it doesn’t become bored or complacent. That’s how you feel when you’re passionate about your career. You stick with it, growing and maturing into new roles and becoming a greater asset to your company. Unless you identify your passion, you’ll spend years moving from one job to the next. The first few months will be exciting and full of possibility. But as soon as the infatuation wears off, you’ll start looking for what’s next. Sometimes, people are in the right careers but at the wrong company. That’s why it’s a good idea to try out a similar role with another organization if you like your job but feel dissatisfied overall. If you’re unhappy in both environments, then you may have chosen the wrong path after all. I moved through three different companies working in accounting early in my career. Maybe I should have known something was off, but I always thought it would be better somewhere else. I’d make more money, I’d like the company more, I’d enjoy the work for a longer time frame. But after the third disappointment, I had to admit that it wasn’t the company or the people. It was the work itself. Accounting wasn’t the right career for me, no matter where I went.

Doing the Time

Admitting that you’re not suited to your chosen path is hard. But it’s also essential to building a fulfilling professional life. To achieve greatness in anything, you have to put in the time. No one becomes a master overnight. It takes years of dedication to learn and hone your craft. Without that, you can never reach your full potential, either in output or success. But if you lack passion, it’s very difficult to commit yourself to the craft. People who achieve great things are driven by a deep commitment to the work. They also have fun doing it. If you don’t enjoy what you do, chances are you’re not going to stick with it in the long term. Think about how you feel when you leave work each day. Is your mind still racing with ideas or puzzling over a tough problem? Or are you typically mentally checked out until you come back tomorrow morning? If it’s the latter, you should consider rethinking your career choice.

How to Find a Career Path You’re Passionate About

Let’s assume you’ve reached a turning point. You know you’re unhappy in your career but you don’t know what will make you happy. Where do you go from here? First, take some time to reflect on the things you’re passionate about. What projects call to you, which issues resonate? Talk to friends, family, and professional mentors. What strengths do they observe in you? Do they have any thoughts on where your passions lie? Hearing other people’s perspective can illuminate areas you hadn’t even realized you were passionate about. Once you begin to get a sense of what brings you joy, you can begin evaluating career paths using the following three metrics:

1. Personality

Consider your personality and communication style. Are you introverted or extroverted? What types of people do you enjoy being around? In what types of environments do you thrive? Understanding your own personality can help you narrow down the type of work that would suit you. For instance, someone who prefers to spend much of the day analyzing information and data wouldn’t be energized by being a recruiter, just as someone who likes to be active outdoors all day wouldn’t do well working in research.

2. Tactical

Most people want to be in a job where they feel they’re making a difference and helping people, but it’s important to consider what your day-to-day will actually look like. Do you need to be in the field seeing the results of your work every day, or are you more comfortable working in the office and knowing you’re making an impact from afar? Ask yourself which role you want to have within an organization – there are many ways to make a difference, but their typical work days can look very different.

3. Structural

What are the parameters of a given job? There are several factors to consider in this category, including day-to-day responsibilities, company hierarchy, and compensation structure. If you’re looking for a small, agile team where you can get involved in several different company initiatives, a startup might be the place for you. But if you prefer routines and clearly defined roles, a more mature organization may be the way to go. Making a career change can be scary, especially if you’ve been in the same field for a long time. Some people feel that they’re too deep in their careers to make a change, but if you don’t love what you do it’s never too late to pivot. Why put off being happy until retirement when you can find more enjoyment in your career today? As long as you’re willing to make the tough calls for the sake of your passion, you will get where you want to be.

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