So here's the deal
Living is an expensive habit. We all need that paycheck to afford to exist on this planet with a certain degree of comfort - some require higher standards of comfort than others... but, to each their own. All of this is pretty standard. However, things start to get tricky when we mislead ourselves into believing that what we do for work is an optional element of our core identity. And what I mean by that is this: If you are telling yourself that your job has nothing to do with who you are, then what you are saying is the thing that you choose to spend the largest amount of time in your life being focused on, really holds no importance to you.
And yet, I'm going to venture to say that you do, however, have passions. We all have things in this world that bring us to life, that make the time fly by, that spark our curiosity, and give us contentment and joy. So why wouldn't someone make the decision to focus as much of their time as possible in that space, where their passion lives? You hear it all the time, "Do what you love." And you see it everyday... hoards of people ignoring those words of wisdom and suppressing their sense of purpose.
Well, frankly, every time I see it happening, every time I hear someone try to rationalize why they are staying on a career path that doesn't give them any real satisfaction - it honestly pisses me off, because IMHO, that's just no way to live. So I'm going to make a case for rationalizing why following your passion is the safest option for work.
What does your work mean to you?
When I was growing up, I couldn't wait to be finished with school. The way I looked at things were - you spend your entire life working - in school, you have to pay tuition or get scholarships. But when you graduate, you get paid a salary to work. Seems like an obvious choice to me. I could not wait to work. Graduation was the Promised Land. After I received that diploma, I was going to get paid to show my work.
Now take that choice to work, and remember that you now have another decision to make.
As you move through your career, whether you put any real thought into it or not, you will develop your own personal brand. There will be things your colleagues will remember you by and come to expect from you, good, bad or indifferent. I am of the school of thought that it's best to be very intentional in developing your personal brand because at the end of the day, your reputation is the one thing you can always count on having. Other things in life come and go, but your attitude and actions are always under your ownership.
Are you the kind of person who shows up and people can trust that you are going to give it everything you've got? Are you someone that holds up the meeting because you're always running late? Are you someone who takes credit for other peoples ideas and presents them as your own... people will remember that. Are you someone who mentors others and gives people a real shot at creating their own success... people will remember that too.
Someone once told me, "People may or may not remember your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel." Have you put much thought recently into how you are making other people feel? Because good luck getting that promotion if you're pissing people off on the reg.
"People may or may not remember your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel."
Do you show up with a sense of purpose?
The point is, take some time to think about what your work means to you and remember that every interaction in your career is an opportunity for you to demonstrate the quality of professional that you are.
Practice safe career paths
Deciding to follow a "safe" career path doesn't always mean following a predictable career path.
Safety...and having a sense of security are pretty important things. Anyone familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs will recall that they fall second in line, just behind our most basic needs to eat, drink, sleep, and have sex (preferably while sheltered from the elements).
And this right here, is why people opt for jobs they don't really care about. Because they at least want to achieve or maintain a sense of security. While I can understand that logic, here's where I start to see things differently.
When you say yes to a job that does not stimulate your mind or allow you to focus on doing anything you really care about, but it will "pay the bills," you are a making a decision from a place of fear.
Alternatively, when you start saying "Yes" to career opportunities that intrigue you, your likelihood for success just grew exponentially.
Paying attention to your areas of passion
It is rare for someone to know exactly what they want to do with their life and their career right out of the gate. It's easy to get distracted by things that don't really matter and to lose focus on designing your future when we are all so easily influenced by the "right now."
By with that said, there are some easy signifiers to make note of when it comes to uncovering your areas of passion so you know what makes the most sense for you to lean into.
- When are you in your Flow State?
- What are the tasks you gravitate towards doing first, and why?
- What are some fields that pique your interest? (whether you have experience or deep knowledge in them doesn't matter)
Following your sense of purpose
Option A: Start your job search
The easiest way to get a job is to be the only candidate who has a true sense of purpose that directly correlates with the role you are applying for. Any seasoned professional will tell you that passion outperforms experience every time. The reason is simple. You can learn the job on the job, and the job always changes. We weren't born with a finite number of skills. We learn new skills and adapt to new technology every day. But you can't train someone to give a shit.
So start by taking inventory of all of your current skills, strengths, and interests.
And then research to find different opportunities that allow you to capitalize on things from each of the three categories.
- Research job openings on Glassdoor (if you're going to give your heart and soul to a company, make sure it's one worth giving it to)
- Research opportunities at companies listed in the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies in the country
- Research freelance and part time contractor opportunities
- Just freaking talk to people and ask them questions. You may be one conversation away from the opportunity of a lifetime.
Option B: Start your side hustle
Let's say that you're really not so sure how you could turn your areas of passion into something that you depend on for your livelihood. In some cases, that's completely fair. That's what side hustles are for.
Where to go from here
What's important to remember here is that complacency is the enemy. As my brilliant co-founder recently shared with me:
"Reverence is the domestication of passion. It's a sign of settling into false meaning." - Lisa Umbarger
Do not allow yourself to be lazy and settle into false meaning. Find your sense of purpose. Help others find their sense of purpose. Make the effort to actually stand for something. (because, even if you think that you are not standing for something…you are) When we create a vacuum, something will always fill the void. You are at choice. People will notice. You will stand out. You will be sought out.
And you find that following your passion is indeed the safest career path you could take. And remember that you are free to make changes and pivot along the way.
*Please feel free to share any of your personal recommendations for tools and resources that gave you the courage and confidence to make the leap into a career path that you are passionate about.