Career Passion - is it overrated?
There seems to be endless articles and posts about how we should all be turning our passions into our careers.
Yet, and I realise this is odd coming from a career coach who works with people every day to find out what they really want to do in their work, to improve their careers and lives, this is not always possible and can even be detrimental to our wellbeing.
Wait. What now?
We seem to believe that if we do what we love for our work we will feel fulfilled, we'll never have to 'work' again and life will be all unicorns, rainbows and roses.
From experience, my own and my clients, this is not always the case.
Many years ago I had one passion - to perform. I was in every school musical, went to university to study drama, then onto a year's acting training and after 6 years in 'the biz' I realised I was not getting anywhere. I also realised that what I loved and had worked so hard for for so many years I was beginning to resent and this hard slog had no pay off.
My lifestyle was crap - working every shift I could to cover my bills, living - well just about surviving - in a fantastic city but without the money, time or energy to enjoy it and to top it all of I wasn't even getting auditions for the roles I wanted.
It was no longer worth it for me. Now I look back I realise that I also saw a dark side of the industry which went against my values and I was not prepared to compromise on them.
I also realised I would never play the parts I desperately wanted - I wasn't, frankly, anywhere near good or strong enough.
That was a bitter pill to swallow but I am thankful I did as I began to reclaim my life.
Now I realise choosing the acting industry is an extreme example as 99% of actors are out of actual acting work 99% of the time, however, the feelings I felt are those that are felt by passion-career hunters the world over - I felt that I had failed and that, therefore, I was and am a failure.
Not only was I not doing what I had set out to do but my physical, emotional, mental and financial health were suffering. For so long my career had defined me; who I was, what I did and didn't do and my lifestyle suffered in the strive to get 'there'.
I see this time and again with clients who have gone for it and end up not only without a career and without a passion as they have been pushed away from it in their desperate need to live and work it every day.
Well this is cheery reading. What's the alternative?
I am in no way wanting to put you or anyone off turning a passion into a career, what I do want to ensure is that you have a reality check with it.
I do this with all of my clients, to make sure this career path is feasible for them and to keep that passion alive - no matter what is thrown at them along the way.
Let's start with what you really want - your ideal life - how do you want this to be and look like?
When you begin to paint the picture of what you desire to be, do and have in all areas of your life you will identify the values that are crucially important to you.
For example, one area may be your family and a desire to spend more time with them, therefore a daily long commute or working every weekend or incredibly long hours as you set up a business on your own is in contradiction with that area and value of yours.
This is by no means a blocker as now you can work around those obstacles by asking to work from home a certain number of days per week or requesting flexible working to accommodate family time or identifying who can help with the start up of your business so you are not alone.
As you explore each area of your ideal life you will begin to build a road map of how to obtain each area - some might be drastic changes such as moving home, others may be minor tweaks such as waking up earlier each day to exercise and eat a nutritious breakfast.
Once you have identified all of the elements of your ideal life and how you can create this to actually live it you will see your ideal working life taking shape too.
Some main considerations here are:
Feeling fulfilled in what you (don't worry - we'll come to that in a moment)
The package you will get - salary, bonuses, perks, pension etc.
The recognition in place
The environment in which you will work
The team with whom you will work
The opportunities for growth, development and progression
The logistics - commute time, mode of transport and expense, working hours etc.
Finding Your Fulfilling Career
There are a few key questions I ask my clients at this stage:
What drives/motivates you? The things that get you out of bed not because you have to but because you want to.
What are you really good at? These are things people actively comment on or things they ask you specifically to help with.
What will a business or clients pay you for? This could be your skills, your knowledge base, your experience, your network - encompass everything.
As you answer these key questions you will see what fulfils you in your life and can then discover if and how that can become a career for you.
I often use tools to aid clients in discovering the skills (Superpower Your Skills) they have as well as love to use and exercises to remind them of their strengths Look Back to Learn & Discover Your Strengths) and their USP (Be Your Best Self)
All of this comes together to reveal of the type of work my client wants to do - it is a (dare I say it!) a full and holistic approach to identify the career they really want and we then work on the logistics of how they can get that role, create that business or carve out their career niche.
For some clients they remain in their current career and we move on to explore what they need to change or improve to enjoy it more.
It is here that I will ask "what will make you fall back in love with your career?"
For many it is identifying what attracted to them to it in the first place and what their current pain points are. Once we have identified these elements we work at how to take back control in their current role by overcoming the issues which could include switching to a different team, company or industry, getting more training to progress or upskill or taking a side step and shift their career focus slightly.
More often than not when we begin to solve these elements clients begin to invest in their careers as well as their passions - I turned my passion of acting into my hobby by performing sketch and improv comedy. This, in turn, has led to me forging some of my closest friendships, being on TV, radio, involved in festivals across the UK and running our own comedy nights and festivals - and it was so, so much fun!
Ultimately that is the aim - to feel valued, fulfilled and happy in our work and our life - we don't have to let one element define us or to live up to an ideal.