So much of the advice one seems to get these days is to find a job / occupation which you’ll be passionate about. There is good reason for this of course; being enthusiastic about your work on a daily basis will improve your attendance, your productivity, keep you working cooperatively with similarly motivated people and you’ll be happier of course.
It makes sense from so many angles then to love the work you do. However, as we build up the importance of knowing what you want to do and being passionate about it, there is an unintended problem being created for those who haven’t yet figured out where their passion lies. If one agrees with how finding their passion will improve their overall happiness but they can’t define it, they’ll often develop anxiety and fear where they previously might not have before learning the value of feeling passion in their work.
Then what happens is people set out to discover what they would be passionate about but do this as an intellectual exercise only. That is to say instead of taking jobs and discovering what they like and don’t like and using their experiences to get closer to a passionate experience, they imagine what a job might be like. When they only imagine the job and project their best guesses as to what it would feel like, they’re going to more often than not make errors in judgement and reject jobs out of hand. I see this all the time.
What I have observed is that many unemployed people will make a generalized statement such as, “I know I want to work with people” for example. Now there are very few jobs where other people aren’t in some way part of the employment experience. The statement is far too broad to really be much of a guide to finding employment that will be highly satisfactory. Further questions and answers are needed to narrow this all-encompassing statement down to something much more definitive.
What field(s) would be of interest? Health? Forestry? Environmental? Business? Technology? Science? In describing the end-users who would benefit from your work; are they disabled, elderly, home owners, vacationers, dieters, religious, teens in trouble, wealthy etc. The list can be incredibly long! Further, in addition to the end-users, what about your co-workers? Are you hoping they are open-minded, intellectual, task-oriented, curious, aggressive, friendly, dependent? here is as you can see so much to determine when starting with such statements.
Somehow we’ve got it wrong I think. Yes I think while we’ve done a good job getting people to buy-in to the idea of finding work that will fuel our passion as the path to happiness, we’ve done a poor job building in the supports to help figure out what that is. The good news is that more people need to hear that many jobs and multiple careers will provide happiness; that a person can work passionately in a number of jobs. The pressure to find that single job on the planet one was destined to do is a fallacy.
As soon as one believes there are many jobs that will bring happiness and job satisfaction, the pressure goes down a little to find one. Now the person is looking for one of those jobs, not THE job; a huge shift in focus. While thinking about what might bring you happiness is a worthwhile exercise, over-thinking about what might bring you happiness is not. Over-thinking things can stall forward movement; developing a situation where someone feels stuck and afraid of choosing incorrectly.
Yes, sometimes the best action a person can take is to get out and work with the purpose of trying various jobs and all the while evaluating the good and the bad, the pros and the cons of the work they perform. As one moves from job to job, doing more of the things one likes and less of the things one has learned they don’t makes each successive job more fulfilling.
The person therefore who says they want to work with people might start in the kitchen of a restaurant. While they like the teamwork there they may not like the stress of making sure every plate looks identical to another or the pressure of delivering so many meals quickly and perfectly. So the teamwork is appealing and the food industry is not. Strike out kitchen work but retain the teamwork. Next they work on a team canvassing neighbourhoods for donations for a charity. Again the teamwork is positive and being outdoors is refreshing but they learn they just aren’t cut out to pitch and sell. Teamwork and the outdoors are pros, selling and the kitchen are out. You get the idea I hope.
This kind of process takes time and much experimentation, trial and error. All the while though, you’re on a journey where you learn about your likes and dislikes, you discover what you’re good at, where you derive your happiness most often. At some point you find you’ve figured it out, and it could be in a job you didn’t even know existed when you first started out on your journey.
Take a deep breath and exhale and then do it two or three more times. You’re in this for the long haul and give yourself permission to experiment. Finding passion in your work is great but working while learning about your likes and dislikes is valuable too.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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