Just as romance novels paint an unrealistic picture of relationships, images of professionals who are “passionate” about their work set a standard that is very difficult to achieve. Today’s professionals are under a great deal of pressure to pursue careers that inspire passion. Rather than encourage them to aim higher, however, this quest for passion can actually hurt professionals.
Passion is an overused and emotionally charged term, particularly as it relates to careers. It conjures images of early mornings, jumping out of bed with a burning desire to face the workday. Very few of us actually experience that level of enthusiasm for our work, however. Does that mean we are not satisfied with our careers? Not necessarily.
Focusing on the passion, or lack thereof, can cause unwarranted feelings of inadequacy and incompleteness. A better way to determine whether or not you are in the right career is to consider the following:
1. Does it leverage your strengths?
Does your job generally allow you to be your best self? Does your work maximize your skills and talents? Does your leadership team recognize your value?
If you feel underutilized or underappreciated, that’s a good indication that you are not fully able to express your unique value to the organization. This can often be addressed by taking a more proactive approach to career management. Consider opportunities to take more initiative, such as talking to your manager about increasing your responsibilities, or becoming involved in higher visibility projects.
2. Does it give you a sense of purpose?
Does your job allow you to make a meaningful contribution to a larger goal? Can you see how your work furthers the mission of your organization?
An inability to connect your efforts to your organization’s achievements can lead to frustration and decreased motivation. Try making an effort to understand how your work enables the organization to accomplish its goals.
3. Does it offer opportunities for growth?
Unless you plan to retire in your current role, you will likely be looking for a new challenge in the not too distant future. Does your current job provide the opportunity to learn new skills and take on new challenges? Does it offer you the ability to advance to higher-level roles?
Don’t assume that your current job lacks opportunities for growth simply because you haven’t been approached to take on a new role. In many organizations, the most effective way to advance your career is to take the initiative to express your interest and proactively seek out higher-level positions.
4. Does it provide a supportive work environment?
Does your manager offer the support you need to do your best work? Are you able to work effectively with your co-workers? Are you satisfied with your level of work/life balance?
Finding a good fit is critical to career success and satisfaction. You may have responded positively to the first three questions, but if you lack a good manager, or work in a toxic environment, you will never experience true career satisfaction.
Rather than strive for passion, an, often, unattainable ideal, focus on these four areas. Few professionals will consistently feel passionate about the work they do, but if your work challenges you, enables you to feel like a meaningful contributor to a larger goal, and provides you with a productive work environment, you are far more likely to experience an overall sense of career satisfaction.
If you’re not comfortable with your responses to these four questions, it may be time to consider other alternatives. First, think about how you may be able to make changes to improve the situation. Can you take more initiative, build stronger relationships, or find opportunities for greater visibility? If you’ve exhausted your options internally, you may need to look externally to increase your level of career satisfaction.