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  • Cindy Lee

Is "passion" for work over-rated?

Updated: Aug 28, 2021


A client told me she found the perfect job. “It’s a perfect match for my background and I can definitely handle the responsibilities they’ve listed. The only thing slightly off is that the pay is lower than I’d hope, but I think I can negotiate a compensation package that honors what I need.”

“Great!” I replied. “What’s this perfect job?”

“It’s a Regional Director position for [pet food company] and the step up I’ve been looking for.”

I paused. Her background was in a completely different industry and I knew she didn’t have any pets. “Oh! I didn’t know you liked pets that much. Do you?”

“Not really, but I don’t think I need to be around them in order to do the job.”

This is very likely true. BUT, I would hope to do the job well, the person in this role would get to know the target audience (owners AND their pets) and if I were the customer, I’d appreciate knowing that the company spends time in my shoes to understand my needs. Apart from whether she could do the job effectively, my concern was more for her interest in the industry she was entering at such a high level position.

It actually didn’t seem to be all that perfect, in my humble opinion.

This summer, we’ve been creating a list of your Core Values, Personality, and Skills to help you visualize how you are uniquely created and wired. This of course applies to all areas of life, but in the series I’ve been referencing how to apply it in the context of your career.

In your notebook, you should now have three columns – CORE VALUES, PERSONALITY, and SKILLS. Add a fourth column labeled PASSIONS / INTERESTS.

It’s so important to consider and incorporate your passions and interests into your job search – if you’ll be investing such a large chunk of your life and time into something, you want to ideally find something that you’d enjoy! This may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you how many people discount this area due to thinking it’s not relevant. There’s the pitfall. Take the opening story as an example. Very quickly she may find herself falling behind in her ability to make intuitive connections between pet owners and needs. Or she may feel frustrated having to spend her spare time reading up on the industry instead of doing things she’d rather do. There are many other possibilities that could lead her towards wanting to switch jobs sooner than intended.

As an alternative, here’s a tip: consider finding a job in an industry in which you already spend much of your time. For example, if you have children and are constantly looking for creative and educational sources of entertainment for them, you may enjoy working for a company that is creating software apps for kids. Or if you spend your not-so-spare time reading blogs and articles to compare the latest consumer technologies, you might consider a job that actually pays you to do that kind of timely competitive analysis. Or, if you have stashes of scrapbooking crafts in your closet because you place huge value in capturing life’s memories in creative ways, you may love spending your day designing layouts for people to use in their online photobooks.

The main point is that if you really want to optimize the hours of your day and maximize your joy, take a look at what you already enjoy doing and look for that in the job context. With SO many types of jobs in existence, there is likely a role where you could get paid to do what you enjoy that matches your values/personality/skillset in an industry you find interesting!

And as with everything thus far, if you aren’t clear about what your passions and interests are, you can’t align with them.

There’s so much that can be said about your “passion,” so I’ll keep it very simple for our purposes – What are you drawn to? Or, how do you spend your time? Here are two exercises to capture your thoughts in this area.

EXERCISE #1: What are you drawn to?

What do you daydream about doing when you have “free” time? If money and time were really no concern, where would you focus your efforts?

In your notebook under the “Passions/Interests” column, make a list of the things you are drawn to doing. You can capture this in several ways:

  • Type of industry – eg, healthcare, education

  • Category of goods – eg, consumer gadgets, retail-clothing, children’s learning & development software

  • Target audience – eg, youth, elderly, orphans, new mothers

  • Activities – eg, biking, camping, shopping, scrapbooking, motorcycles, cooking

  • Other – eg, human behavior, learning & development, social injustices

There is no need to judge or censor your thoughts, so don’t leave out things that seem “small” or “insignificant” in relation to those that are “noble” causes.

EXERCISE #2: How do you spend your time?

What do you actually spend your time doing? There’s two ways you can do this – looking back at the past/typical week, or keeping a log of the coming week. Pick whichever is most relevant, and let’s make a chart.

In your notebook, flip to a new page and draw a line down the middle. On the left, label the column Activity/Task and then split the right column into 5 smaller ones to capture a range of preferences. Across those, apply these 5 labels: No thanks, Could do, Interested, Want to, Love it.

  1. Take a look at your past (or a typical) week. Make a list of each day and what you did, ranging from the daily tasks of work to your activities outside of work. You can be as detailed or as vague as you want, but be specific. Eg, you can list cold-calling, searching the internet, analyzing numbers -OR- you can list market research. As you go, rate each one according to the different levels of passion/interest.

  2. Keep a log/journal of the coming week. Similar to the first method, capture what you do each day both in and outside of work, and rate them on the passion scale.

Now transfer the “Love it” activities/tasks into your previous worksheet, adding to the list you started in Exercise #1. If you don’t tend to love doing things, then list the items you rated in the “Want to” column.

As you do Exercise #2, you may begin to notice trends in activities where you spend more time than others. Without getting into the conversation of priorities at this time, that might help shed some light into the areas to which you’re drawn (what we’re capturing in Exercise #1).

If you have the chance to get paid doing something you enjoy and already do often and likely do well, why not go for it? There’s no need to feel guilty about it. We all know what happens when you are not thriving in your job – you’re probably frustrated, at times irritable, don’t want to get out of bed or go to work, and often discouraged or in a foul mood.

When you enjoy your work and are appreciated for doing your job well, you will have much more joy and kindness in your life to share with others around you.

Pursuing a job within your passions is one way to optimize the hours of your day, maximize your joy, and serve the world.

Take a look at your notebook where you’ve listed your core values, personality, skills, and now passions/interests. Can you get a better sense of who you are created to be?

Once you get clearer about what you value and how you are wired, you can finally align your life accordingly. Your life will be more integrated and you will likely have time to spare on the areas of your life beyond work. You will also be stewarding well the person that you’re created to be.

COMING NEXT: Up until this point, we’ve been adding different components that you want to include in your search. Next week, we will point out the areas in which you’ll want to restrict your search. You mean it’s ok to limit it now? YES! Stay tuned…

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