Why passion has nothing to do with finding a fulfilling job in the impact space
Job seekers and career changers hear it all the time. The key to finding the perfect job in the impact space is “follow your passion and the money will follow”. Sounds easy enough. Do what you really love to do, and the rest will fall into place. But in my fifteen years of managing and coaching people, I have rarely seen anyone who can be sure of what their true passion really is.
Of course, there are individuals who can pinpoint the exact day and time they realized that they were meant to be a doctor, a lawyer, a baker or an environmentalist and where a passion for their métier has influenced everything they’ve ever done since the age of three. But the truth is, for most of us it just doesn’t work that way.
More often than not, we don’t have a clue about what it is that would make us truly happy at work. We’re usually pretty good at identifying what we don’t want, through the trial and error of experience in various jobs; but knowing what we do want takes a bit more work, and it takes time to figure things out. Worrying about finding our passion can place a lot of undue and unproductive pressure on us, especially when it comes to finding jobs in the impact space where it is often assumed that these jobs need to be related to a personal passion.
To help you find your passion, career coaches will frequently ask you to list what you’re good at. But what if you’re the kind of person who is competent at quite a few things – which is probably the case if you’ve worked in more than one job. These kinds of questions won’t necessarily lead you to your passion either. The answers will merely help you populate your resume, not necessarily help you understand what you should be doing.
If you’ve lived long enough to have experienced a few things in life, if you’ve taken a breadth of different subjects at college or university, done a little bit of traveling, read news feeds from different sources, surf the Internet on a regular basis, take a few courses along the way and have met a variety of people who do interesting and diverse things, then chances are you’ve probably been exposed to quite a lot of things you could be doing as a job that can lead to a happy and fulfilling career. It doesn’t always have to be about a strong and unequivocal feeling- the essence of what we call “passion”. Very often, it’s about a sense of well-being that comes from a myriad of things that bring us joy.
In my initial conversations with my coaching clients, I like to ask questions about the kinds of things that pique their interest. What puts a smile on their face and excites them? I ask about what gives them a sense of accomplishments and what jobs/careers they envy among their friends and people they respect and admire in the world at large. Finding responses to these kinds of questions will remind you of what brings you joy and what can be aspired to, and will lead to more answers about what will make you truly happy and fulfilled at work rather than focusing on “passion”.
If after reading this you’re still unsure about whether you should be spending time on figuring out your passion or not, take a look at this Ted-X presentation by Terri Trespicio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MBaFL7sCb8.
I love how she reframes what passion really is: “Your passion is you, not some career you pick out of a lineup. It’s the energy you bring to everything you do. The things that will drive, trigger and inspire you are important, but they are clues, not necessarily the end objective. Sometimes, you don’t know where any of it’s heading until you get there – and that’s O.K.”
So, go ahead and give yourself permission to not know exactly what your passion is, because that is O.K. too.
This article was written by Kathrin Bohr.
Kathrin Bohr has been working in the Impact space for over 15 years. For the past five years she has been advising and coaching students at the Schulich School of Business on how to build careers in sustainability, CSR and the social sector. She holds an MBA in Business and Sustainability from Schulich and is an Adler-trained career coach.