This blog was first published on Entrepreneur.com, August 30, 2016.
Life is too short to be doing something day in and day out that you don’t enjoy. With so much of every day dedicated to your career, why not fill that time with something you care about? It will deepen your personal connection to everyday work and your contribution to your team and your field will improve as you are able to put your heart into your work.
The journey to finding the right career will different for everyone, and there is no prescribed roadmap. However, these four steps may help you move along a path that combines your career aspirations with your personal passions.
1. Ask yourself the right questions.
What excites you? What’s your purpose? What are you good at? This kind of self-reflection is crucial when looking for a career that blends with your passions. Ideally, you should be able to identify activities or principles that stimulate you mentally and inspire you personally. Pinpointing the specific things that fulfill you will enable you to look for jobs that offer those important qualities.
You will thrive if you feel motivated and success will be magnified if you focus on jobs that fit your natural skillset. Playing to your strengths will allow you to flourish at a high level and may help you discover new aspects of your job that you can be passionate about. That’s why it’s necessary to identify your existing areas of strength and evaluate what line of work will allow you to engage most deeply with them.
2. Take note of small details.
Whether you are taking your first step into the working world or making a late-in-the-game career shift, even the most minute developments can help you discover how you might fit your passions into your career. For my very first job, I worked at a maternity clothing company, merchandising and managing operations of several retail stores. Even though it was one of my first professional forays, I learned that I enjoyed taking on a managerial role, which gave me the first inkling that I would one day want to run a company.
3. Learn from your peers.
Professional mentors are a particularly good resource to help meld your passions with your work. Seek out those with whom you already have a connection or find a common interest to start the conversation with someone new whose advice you would value. No matter what their profession, a mentor can be helpful for your journey if you share similar passions.
You can also benefit from being a mentor of others. This type of relationship is a hands-on, low-pressure opportunity to learn more about your interests and skills. You might realize that you enjoy giving counsel, for example, or you could get an inside look at how your passions might fit into other fields beyond your own, all through casual conversations with a peer.
4. Learn from each opportunity.
Career moves don’t have to make perfect sense at first. It’s not necessarily the day-to-day tasks of a particular role that move you further down the road to a passionate career — it’s how you react to the broader work environment that can reveal the next steps.
For example, as I was climbing the ranks in the marketing department at Clorox, I was unexpectedly moved to the sales team. I was disheartened at first, believing my path in marketing was being inexplicably cut short, but what was initially a serious career disappointment turned into a major step forward for my career. During my tenure on the sales team, I gained valuable experience that broadened my skill set and my understanding of the company. Because I decided to make the most of that experience, I believe I’m a better manager and a better CEO today.
At the end of the day, even though certain career changes may not seem like linear jumps toward your ideal profession, they can help you learn new things about yourself and build skills that will steer you in the right direction.
Finding a career that fits with your passions is not something most people achieve immediately, and will not have a concrete beginning or end. In fact, most people consider it a lifelong journey. Along the way, you will encounter new ways to incorporate your passions throughout the course of your career, from your colleagues and friends, and from yourself as you are tested in a variety of positions. You will grow as well, so be open to developing a new perspective, because you never know where it will take you.