Once upon a time there was a little girl named Goldilocks…
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to do it all – from setting up an NGO, to starring in a Broadway musical to teaching an indoor spin class. Now, my role on campus involves supporting others in their search for a fulfilling career. I love what I do, but given my low threshold for boredom I’m constantly finding ways to take on a variety of simultaneous roles. And you know what? I’m going to continue working towards being a contestant on The Voice or The Amazing Race!
Throughout my career, I was told to “do what you love”. But what if we have so many interests and loves that we can’t decide on just one?
Throughout my career, I was told to “do what you love”. But what if we have so many interests and loves that we can’t decide on just one? So as I pondered what it meant to identify and pursue your career “passion”, I had to draw upon the tale of Goldilocks as an inspiration for this post.
“Follow your passion” is a buzz phrase that is circulated around the career practitioner world a lot. “Passion” can mean different things for different people. Is it always about finding that one job that you love? And will that lead to a fulfilling life? Perhaps, for some the answer is a definitive “yes”. For others, work may not be an all-encompassing source of life satisfaction. If you are like the staff on our campus, you probably have diverse interests that may or may not be mutually exclusive with work.
The Goldilocks Approach to identifying “passion” and finding your unique life-work balance is about trying out different opportunities and experiences and finally finding a solution that fits your unique situation
Trying things on for size
Looking to the future may seem a little overwhelming if we don’t have a clear vision of what we want to do with our interests. And as much as we would all like a fool-proof, “how-to” manual that walks us through all the critical steps, at the end of the day, we are all multi-faceted individuals with drastically different needs and ideas around life-work satisfaction. There isn’t a one size fits all approach. The Goldilocks Approach to identifying “passion” and finding your unique life-work balance is about trying out different opportunities and experiences and finally finding a solution that fits your unique situation. During this process, you might figure out creative ways to gather and put together all your other passion puzzle pieces to form a fulfilled career. Or, you may discover that your idea of balance or fulfillment means pursuing some of your passions outside of work. In Alexandra Levit’s book, New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career, she encourages you to think about “passion” and to what extent it’s a career motivator for you. These days, many careers are non-traditional and non-linear. In fact, that is what makes the idea of a portfolio career appealing to some people since it may redress balance while integrating many interests to create that “ideal” and diversified career.
When I realized that a blueprint approach wasn’t a fit for me and that I much preferred to color outside the lines, I began to fully embrace the idea that it was okay to be unconventional and that I may have many careers and passions over my lifetime.
Getting it “Just Right”
We all have some level of fear and anxiety around getting it “right” the first time around. Our focus on the outcome, the fear of failure, or even getting that gold star for our efforts, may keep us from fully investing in and enjoying the process. The pressure of having to find that single driving force, that ONE passion may be what’s stopping you from exploring. In the book, Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win, authors Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz discuss the success that can result from being an active player instead of a spectator. Most people’s career journeys take all different twists, turns and detours, and unanticipated opportunities may fall off the radar if you have too narrow a focus on a pre-determined track or destination. Fact is, there’s a lot of trial and error involved in identifying your passion(s) that fit(s) you “just right”. Like any creative process, you may need to gradually pinpoint the things that really stick and will get you most excited. At one point, I was convinced that I lacked focus and there was this urgency to carve out a well-defined career path before taking my next calculated step. When I realized that a blueprint approach wasn’t a fit for me and that I much preferred to color outside the lines, I began to fully embrace the idea that it was okay to be unconventional and that I may have many careers and passions over my lifetime.
Whether it’s talking to a career counselor or engaging in career conversations with campus colleagues, you have a lucrative network of support available to help kickstart your ideas in pursuing your passions.
Once you have an idea of your work interests or passions, it may still seem like a long stretch to translate them into a career. The good news? On this campus, there are a plethora of ways to roll up your sleeves, delve into the process and test out things that will allow you to explore both confirmed and unconfirmed interests a bit more—volunteering, staff organizations, internships/projects with other departments, and informational interviews. You’re not alone on this journey. Sometimes you just need a little nudge to help you uncover your natural Goldilocks instincts to determine for yourself what is “juuuust right”. Whether it’s talking to a career counselor or engaging in career conversations with campus colleagues, you have a lucrative network of support available to help kickstart your ideas in pursuing your passions.
Questions for our readers:
- What does passion mean to you in the context of work? your personal life?
- How important is it that you do what you are passionate about at work?
Join the conversation in the comments section below!
Interested in any of the books mentioned? Or just interested in getting a different perspective on career passion? Stop by the Career Counseling Library at the Tang Center to check out a good read!