“Find your passion and the money will follow.”
“Do what you love even without a business plan.”
These pollyanna statements cause a nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach because they mislead you into thinking that life is easy, blissful, and that money just shows up.
Having provided career advice to hundreds of college students, read numerous books, and navigated major career changes in my life, I believe there are better ways to reflect and move forward with your next career goals.
Career vs Job vs Calling
Your relationship with your work impacts how fulfilled and happy you are. Consider the story of 3 bricklayers which has been around for many years. Each were asked what they were doing.
The first man answered gruffly, ‘I’m laying bricks.’
The second man replied, ‘I’m putting up a wall.’
But the third man said enthusiastically and with pride, ‘I’m building a cathedral’
— Author Unknown
Your attitude and perspective of how you view your work is vital to attaining fulfillment and understanding the role work is playing in your life at a given moment.
Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale University’s School of Management, and other researchers have been studying a classification system which can help you recognize your orientation toward your work. They have created distinctions between a career, a calling, and a job.
Here is a synthesis:
A career is something that incorporates your interests, your skills, and your values and it is something that you have invested time and energy to cultivate.
A job is employment that provides you with money and flexibility while you meet other needs such as caring for a family member or attending school.
A calling is something that is integral to your self-expression. It’s something that you do without thinking about it and it could be related to your career or to a hobby. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love said that if she could not earn money with her writing, she would still continue to write anyway because it is her calling.
So are you looking for a career, a job, or a calling?
Faced with some uncertainty? Here are some things to consider:
1. Take an inventory of what you like about your current situation.
Identify all the elements and benefits that you do like about your current situation. It is so easy to focus on the glass half empty and not take stock of all the positive components of your current situation. What is going well that you don’t necessarily want to change?
2. Consider multiple career or job scenarios.
Think of yourself as a design project where you are creating your next opportunity. If you have several strong interests, create 10 different possible careers options that use your skills and talents. If you are stuck, brainstorm with a friend. Then systematically identify your top 3- 5 to test and explore. It is challenging to predict where your next offer will come from, so it is important to have several plans.
3. Follow your curiosity.
If you are burned out and uninspired with your current job, it’s hard to tap into any kind of passion. So choose to follow your curiosity.
- What interests you?
- What are you reading?
- What types of people are you drawn to?
- What organizations inspire you?
- What are you interested in learning?
4. Get out of your own way.
Procrastination, avoidance, and distraction are signals that you might be experiencing some fear. Are you afraid of change? Or the feeling of being an imposter? Or just afraid to go for it? ( Read: Amateur vs Pro – How Committed are You to Your Work? )
Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are confused or lost so that we have an excuse not to take any action. Confusion allows you to wallow in stagnation and not move forward. Refrain what you are telling yourself and proclaim it as a “discovery phase.”
- How are you getting in your own way?
- How would you coach yourself forward?
- What steps can you take as you allow yourself to discover what to do next?
5. Avoid perfectionism.
Perfectionism shows up in a couple of places. Like many people, you may think you need to have your career life entirely mapped out with one specific outcome or job title. Or that you have to answer that dreaded question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” The truth is our career life is often unfolding as our values and needs shift.
The average person now has 5 different careers over their lifetime. So break down your life into smaller time chunks and consider what interests you now.
Remember that no job is perfect and blissful all the time. Along with good parts, there is often hard work, stress, and meaningless tasks.
- Are your expectations realistic?
- Or are you just looking for bliss 24/7?
- What grunt work are you willing to do in order to get to the work you really enjoy doing?
An individual on average will spend about 30% of their lifetime working. According to Gallup, 32% of workers are engaged with their work, 50% are “not engaged,” and 17% are “actively disengaged.” Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization.
- Are you an engaged employee? If not, why not?
- How do you view your work – is it a job, a career, or a calling?
- What do like? What do you want to change? What are you willing to accept?
- What steps are you going to take in 2017 to make it your best year ever?