2009/03/01

Do What You Love: Do You Love Your Job?

An aphorism occasionally heard by college-age people in the USA who are trying to figure out what direction their life should take is "do what you love."

Doing what you love or following your dream is most often easier said than done. Reality and money can seem more important or more immediate than idealistic goals about how to live your life.

I was listening this weekend to a woman in her 70s talking with a college junior. He was telling her about summer jobs he had in the past, the one he has lined up for summer 2009 and the type of summer job he hopes to get in 2010.

His previous summer jobs were not ones he was particularly passionate about and were not closely related to his college major. The jobs were primarily taken because they paid well and contributed significantly to school expenses. He mentioned that many people he worked with did not seem to enjoy their jobs.

The woman said she'd had a job she truly loved. She looked forward to going to work every day. The hours flew by, and she almost felt like it wasn't work. It was the type of job where a person says, 'I can't believe they pay me to do this.' She said, "I think everybody should work in a job they love. If they don't like the job, that doesn't mean they should immediately quit. But they should keep their eyes open for a job better suited for them."

As the discussion continued, however, she admitted that for a number of years she had a job she didn't enjoy. The woman stayed in the disliked job for a long time because she needed the money and couldn't find another job she would enjoy more that would pay equally well. It seems for her 'reality' meant sometimes life puts people in situations where they have to stay for months or years in a job they don't like and wish they could quit.

Regardless of your situation, today really is the beginning of the rest of your life. It will be a waste of months or years of your life to stay any longer than absolutely necessary in a job you will never be able to enjoy. Only you can change that situation. Making the change requires commitment on your part and a lot of hard work. Below are suggestions about how to get on the path of doing what you love, about how to find work areas about which you are passionate:
  1. Make a list of topics, ideas, careers, classes and specific jobs which are of extremely high interest to you. Add to this list as you explore what the world might hold in store for you.
  2. Talk about your potential career choices with several people whose opinions you value. Some people may want to talk with a career guidance counselor, or may want to take interest or aptitude tests. For others it might be more helpful to just talk with people who have ten or twenty years of experience in the working world. Especially valuable will be discussing this with people who love what they do for a living. Maybe they can explain how they found their way onto a path that works for them.
  3. Identify at least two work directions of highest interest to you; pick three or four top choices if you want to expand your horizons. Choose directions that are distinctly different from each other. You'll learn more about the best direction for you if your directions are chemical engineer, forester, author and Maya hieroglyph expert than if your top four choices are chemical engineer, chemist, biologist and botanist.
  4. Research the top work directions chosen. Read books about them, learn the jargon, research job opportunities within those fields and subscribe to online news alerts to find out what advances are occurring, what the challenges are and what the emerging trends are in each subject area.
  5. Identify twenty interesting people in each field, choosing a wide variety of backgrounds and types of people. Include academic faculty, graduate students, business leaders, media contacts and people from outside your country. Target those who might provide valuable insights into chosen areas of interest. Connect with as many of those people as possible (at least ten in each field) and develop relationships with those who are open to doing so.
  6. Take classes in each field. These could be online classes, either free or paid, or they could be taken through a local college or other educational institution. There is an amazing variety of self-study courses available.
  7. Participate in events related to your areas of interest. Use the internet to find free events, industry group monthly meetings, conferences with a reasonable registration fee or informal meet-ups of people with similar interests.
  8. After diligently pursuing the above activities, do significant work in one or more of your chosen areas of passion. This significant work could include:
  • Research project with a faculty member or graduate student.
  • Internship, paid or unpaid.
  • Full-time or part-time job.
  • Series of articles for media publication.
  • White paper or book.

Because of your planned activities or because of serendipity, you will eventually find one or more areas where you can make a difference, where you will have job satisfaction. And when you find job satisfaction, you'll smile more, you'll have more energy and you'll see the possibilities life holds instead of focusing on the roadblocks it throws up.

When you spend your working hours on something you are truly passionate about, you'll look forward to getting up each morning...and that's a great feeling to have.

*****

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