We receive many words of wisdom and advice from our mentors and colleagues regarding how to find happiness in our careers.
One piece of advice is to “find your passion.” This mantra might apply to some and is a worthwhile endeavour for those who know their passions and can successfully commercialise these interests.
However, many talented individuals have passions that provide creativity and challenge; however, do not generate enough income to pay the bills.
I also believe a vast majority of people do not know what their passion is or don’t have a passion.
When we look at employees who are happy in their careers, few have had a straight line, most have bumped along until they have landed.
Old school employers see this as skittish behavior. Those in the know delve deeper and understand that it takes a while to figure out what we like and enjoy.
Besides, how could academic teachings provide a true flavor of your chosen discipline until you are actually immersed in the field?
How many select an area of study, and once they are in the real world decide this was not something they enjoy? They do end up switching careers by exploring other opportunities.
What career path should you choose when seeking happiness?
Passion and ability are not always linked. I would love to have been a sax player or a great vocalist. I am passionate about music. I am also tone-deaf, and no amount of passion will allow me to excel at either.
When my clients seek career advice, I suggest they find something they are good at.
Everybody has talents whether it’s as a coder, writer, plumber, statistician, strategist etc. When you find something you are good at, then it comes naturally.
Numerous rewards emerge from discovering what you are good at. First off, you excel at it. Secondly, you then have value. Value to your organisation, your boss and your peers. You become a desired commodity.
This puts you at a competitive advantage. Your profile is raised, and with time the platform for your skillset enlarges.
We all need to feel valued, and once you achieve a place in your career where you are respected, you look forward to your work.
I also advise my clients not to necessarily have a single career for the rest of their lives. Think about this: the average person works for about 90,000 hours. That is daunting.
So to do the exact same thing for 90,000 hours might lead to diminishing returns. You might be fatigued, burnt out, or just plain bored.
How many careers should you expect to have in your lifetime?
It could help if you considered that you might have many careers in the course of your lifetime.
Remain curious, continue to explore different fields and build upon your vast network. You will most likely end up shifting your interests more than once.
This allows you to stay engaged and enjoy new challenges. It is exceptionally rewarding. You then recognise that your talents are not singular but rather plentiful.
Stop thinking in straight lines, remain curious and embrace change. Passion is a feeling and feelings change all the time.
So my advice to you is find something you are really good at because when you do the returns are great. Recognise that you may embark on a few careers over the course of your life based upon market demands and your personal commitment.
People who have had many careers are fascinating to talk to, they have many interests and have multi-faceted skills. They give us permission to be many things.
When someone asks you what your passion is relative to your career, do not feel pressured. You are not necessarily expected to have a career passion.
With experimentation, variety, and changing roles, you will find what you excel at which will serve you well on the road to career happiness.
Just remember although you may enjoy doing the same thing for 40 years the road to happiness likely has many trajectories providing you with variety and an acute sense of mastery. For those of you who have a varied career path, you are welcome at my dinner table any time.
Cindy Wahler, PhD, C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in executive coaching and talent management. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.