Before I start, I have to say that I sometimes find myself exhausted by all of the chatter on finding your passion when it comes to your job.
It’s not that I don’t think you should be thoughtful about what you do. You should! And you should take into account what energizes you when you make the decision of what to do next. Even so, work is work! There will be some days you may love what you do and many days you will probably still hate what you do.
The reason why this topic can frustrate me is that it’s never going to be all rainbows and butterflies, and the notion that we will walk into a job and be in L-O-V-E on day one (and every day after) is an expectation that will leave us constantly disappointed.
Loving what you do also requires actual hard work, commitment to sticking with things, and a huge dedication to learning and growing. Here’s an interesting NYTimes article from a few years ago that has some good food for thought on this.
All this being said, sometimes I come across some really good advice on this topic that feels so simple, yet so impactful at the same time, and I’m inspired to share.
#1: Ask yourself one simple question
The first nugget comes from this awesome article where Bobbi Brown writes a letter to her younger self. It covers many things she’s learned and realized in hindsight. The whole thing is worth reading, but this part was particularly inspiring to me.
So you’ll graduate high school, go to a “traditional” four-year college, and be completely miserable. You won’t be able to shake the feeling that something is not right and that you made a mistake by even going to college. You’ll go home to visit your mom and tell her you want to drop out.
She’ll ask you, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?” And you’ll respond, “I’d go to Marshall Fields and play with makeup at the cosmetics counter.” That’s when your mom will suggest you become a makeup artist—the “aha!” moment in your life that will change everything.
Let’s just reflect on this super basic question for a moment:
If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?
For me, this is a powerful question. If you didn’t have to work and you had no life constraints, what would you do? I think most people, even those who feel really lost, can answer this question and the answer is important.
It’s not that you should answer this question, immediately quit your job, and follow your dream of becoming a professional travel blogger, as nice as that would be. Bobbi didn’t drop out of school to build a makeup empire. She took one step in that direction and started working as a makeup artist. We all know how it ends.
#2 – Pull on the string
This leads me to the next nugget of advice I want to share. This one comes from an article my friend Maxie just wrote on The College Prepster. It’s about a concept I truly believe in and talk about all the time which is “pulling on the string” – basically, if you know something interests you or may even be your calling, don’t feel like you need to make a drastic change on day 1. Instead, take small steps in the right direction.
No one gets to where they want to be by thinking about it. (If only!). You have to be willing to try things. To say things. To put it out there. To sign up. To make changes. And to do all of those things without worrying about perfection.
Action will give you immediate “life feedback” as to what you like, what’s working, and what doors are opening that you never knew existed.
These small steps can be a number of things: simply meeting and speaking with people (like my friend Lauren from Career Contessa describes in this interview), shadowing someone with an interesting role, volunteering, picking up a book on a certain topic, or taking a class.
In a workshop I hosted earlier this year with General Assembly and Levo League, I shared how this concept of “pulling on the string” and taking small actions was an important part of my own journey.
The Prepary wasn’t a business born overnight. I didn’t think of it, give my notice the next day, and just dive in. In fact, I thought about the idea for the business for years before doing ANYTHING about it. At some point, people became sick of me talking about it constantly without doing much and encouraged me to just start somewhere.
And I finally did. I started by putting up a completely non-branded WordPress blog and just writing about some of the job search topics I was thinking about. While I now find some of the early articles (and graphics!!) slightly embarrassing, I soon realized I was not only enjoying it but also that people were finding it valuable. This feedback propelled me forward to start hosting events and workshops, guest posting on other sites, and putting myself out there in a bigger way.
While still working full time, I introduced the option to get one-on-one advice as well, and people started signing up. Seeing those first few clients succeed motivated me even more and I continued to work with many new people.
It wasn’t until nearly two years later that I quit my job to work on The Prepary as my full-time business. If I had to take that leap on day 1 in 2012, it never would have happened.
So if you’ve been thinking that you’re not happy in your current job for a while but aren’t sure what do next, try to take these two pieces of advice to heart and see where they lead you. If that’s towards a new job, I’d love to hear more about it!