Some people eagerly jump out of bed on workday mornings, whether their day will consist of mopping floors or appearing on Oprah.
Passion for your work does not mean you have to relish each and every job duty. Everyone feels varying degrees of satisfaction and accomplishment with different aspects of their job - some tasks that they enjoy more than others.
Sometimes, simply being involved with an important cause or working toward a goal that is personally meaningful can inspire tremendous job satisfaction. For others, peer recognition or tangible rewards for a job well-done fuel their drive to excel.
I've noticed that when my clients discover a career passion, their choices usually reflect motivations very much like other people in similar occupations. Those things which are most important to an individual provide a strong indicator of career directions with the most potential for joy.
If you're still looking for work you can feel passionate about, the following categories may help you identify career areas you might find fulfilling.
Prestige-driven: Doctors, lawyers, engineers, politicians, bankers, executives, school administrators.
Cause-driven: Healthcare professionals, dieticians, social workers, adoption specialists, teachers, counselors and coaches, non-profit lobbyists, fundraisers, policymakers. Do you care deeply enough about a cause that you're willing to work for low pay? Or are you talented enough to stand out when competing for the few high-paying jobs? If so, what cause is most special to you?
People-driven: Politicians, salespeople, teachers, corporate/government/non-profit managers and executives, genetic counselors, law enforcement personnel, sports/literary/artist agents and publishers, mediators, personal coaches.
Autonomy-driven: These people are often business owners or artists.
Driven to create: Screenwriters, cinematographers, musicians, animators, jewelry makers, car customizers, web designers, computer game programmers, software developers, clothing/fabric designers, die makers, winemakers, photographers, cosmeticians, haircutters, interior decorators, landscape designers, grant-proposal writers.
Driven to perform: Motivational speakers, actors, politicians, teachers, trainers, talk show hosts, artistic performers, and trial lawyers are passionate about performing.
Driven to work with their hands: Mechanics, carpenters, electricians, computer repairpersons, antique restorers.
Driven to research/investigate: Scientists, social science researchers, professors, librarians, writers, journalists, program evaluators, forensic accountants, IRS agents, detectives and criminologists.
Language-driven: Magazine editors, lawyers, professors, talk-show hosts, sports announcers, journalists, freelance writers, novelists, librarians, speechwriters.
Science/Math-driven: Doctors, nurses, public health officials, computer programmers, statisticians, financial analysts, engineers, winemakers.
Driven by a work environment: Arborists, landscape designers, farmers, anyone enjoying working in a fancy office building or on a college campus, jobs in the wilderness such as field biologist or park ranger, ship captains.
Driven by love of an object: Horticulturists, farriers, pyrotechnicians, pet groomers, musical instrument makers, pilots, bookbinders, cabinetmakers, art importers.
Money-driven: Salespeople, doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, portfolio managers.
Glamour-driven: Fashion show coordinators, casting directors, gossip columnists, celebrity photographers and personal assistants.
Adrenaline-addicted: Among those who crave competition and pressure are stock brokers, bond traders, paramedics, stunt people, event planners, chefs, small business owners, police officers, and debt collection specialists.
If you are not sure what you are passionate about, consider asking yourself these questions:
Do you have a knack for something unusual? For example, some people can write well and very quickly. Others stay calm under enormous pressure. Still others are magicians when making things out of wood? If you have a core skill or ability, where would you be excited to use it?
Is there a tool you enjoy using? It could, for example, be a computer, a sewing machine, or a microscope. Even books can be considered tools.
You get animated when talking about what?
What problems have you solved in which you enjoyed the process? Think of problems you've solved at work and outside of work.
Here are a few more basic questions that may tease out what, in reality, will be key in making you pleased with your job. Are any of these important to you?
- Being involved mainly with words, people, numbers, or concrete objects?
- Working in a certain location?
- Working with people or alone?
- Making a certain salary?
- A career that uses a college or graduate degree you already hold?
- Being your own boss?
- A prestigious job title?
- A big-picture or detail-oriented job?
None of the above unearthed a dream career for you? That's fine. Fine? Yes, because so-called dream careers tend to be dream careers for many people, so the competition to get into them is usually fierce. And once in, salaries are often low or the pressure high. That's why some lawyers do ethically questionable things. Dozens of lawyers, equally smart, are willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Fact is, most people who are happy in their career are not in some dream career. As long as you're doing meaningful work, are appreciated by your boss and co-workers, are paid reasonably, and work in a pleasant setting, you may be happier in a seemingly average job than most people are in so-called dream careers.
And here's more good news. Jobs with those characteristics are not overly difficult to land, especially if you look for them in a low-profile field. For example, few people aspire to be in videoconferencing or mobile park brokerage. If you search for work in under-the-radar fields, you're more likely to get multiple job offers, so you can pick one with interesting work, in an attractive office, with nice officemates, a short commute, and good compensation.
For example, if you found a job that utilized your strongest skills, in an attractive office 20 minutes from your home, with the salary you desired, how would you feel? If you're like many of my clients, you'd feel great.
Indeed, Thomas Stanley and William Danko, authors of The Millionaire Next Door, interviewed 750 millionaires and found that a large percentage of them owned "dull normal" businesses - and almost all of them really liked their careers.
In fact, the surest route to success is to clone an already proven business and place it in a different location. You're especially likely to succeed if it's a simple business with low start-up costs and high profit margins; for example, owning espresso carts that you place next to busy train stations.
Count Your Blessings
Here is what matters more than any of the above in increasing contentment with your job and otherwise. I have a client who earns $250,000 a year selling insurance. He is in good health, has a good wife and an attractive house. And he's angry. Always angry. If he has to cold call and the caller hangs up on him, he's angry. If the prospect takes too long before saying yes, he's angry.He's missing the one ingredient that makes some people content with their lives, and others, with the exact same job, miserable: a sense of gratitude. Gratitude that he's healthy. Gratitude that he's not living in squalor. Gratitudefor the opportunity to talkwith people to hear about their problems, and sometimes to solve them, making an excellent living in the process.
Our glasses can be viewed as half-empty or half-full. Choose half-full and you're most of the way home to feeling good about your career and your life.