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Identifying and Achieving Your Career Passion by Leslie Juvin-Acker

February 19, 2015


Whether your goal is to get into a lifestyle industry or simply make a career change, finding and living your career passion is the cornerstone of building a satisfying professional life. But how, you may ask? There is a method to the madness of discovering and having a career that’s true to you.

Uncovering your career passion is a process of revealing and committing to who you are and what drives you and this path starts by breaking it all down with some very simple questions:

Self-awareness and Exploration

Pursuing your career passion begins by developing self-awareness through exploration. While you’re free to try, it’s unnecessary to sit under a tree and meditate until a magical realization suddenly hits you. Instead, start by exploring your motivations and goals to see if they align with your values and priorities.

What do I have to gain? What do I have to give? No two careers are alike because two people can have the same job for entirely different reasons. Asking oneself what there is to gain from a dream job is easy. However, most only stop there and, ignorantly, build a career on only what they can get instead of the value they can give potential employers. What we have to give includes our skillset (adaptive and transferrable), our knowledge base (hands on experience, formal and informal education), and personal gifts and interests (like vision and ideals). Knowing your value makes for streamlined job searches, stress free networking and interviewing, and fruitful salary negotiations.

What am I trying to get away from? and What do I want more of? It seems like asking the same question twice, but the purpose is to establish both negative and positive perspectives. By asking what we’re trying to get away from, we’re looking at what and who drags us down, what kinds of routines and behaviors need to stop, and the reasons why we hate our current work situation. By asking what we want more of, we’re creating a values-based vision that helps us be more specific about our goals. A sample answer includes, "I want to work with people who care about what they do, design sustainable surf products, and incorporate a professional and personal life that works for me and my family."

What are my short and long term goals? Answering this question can be tough, because when put on the spot, people say, "I don't know!" The long and short of it usually involves, I want to make money and I want to like what I do. Asking this question simply implies, What specific results can I achieve to let me know that I have successfully created my vision? Acting as guideposts, goals are changeable and flexible, so don't get hung up on whether or not you achieve them.

Goals, like those mentioned above, can serve as the motivation and inspiration needed to face fears and deal with the risk factors and barriers keeping us from making career passions into realities.

Assessing Risk and Overcoming Barriers

Before developing a clear vision and strategies for finding and achieving career passions, it’s essential to take stock in available resources and assess our readiness, determination, and fears.

What are my internal and external barriers? Internal and external barriers keep us from identifying and achieving our career passions. Internal barriers are emotional (fear of failure or success), psychological or behavioral (arrogance or procrastination), or lacks in our job profile (formal education or experience). With internal barriers, it may be necessary to examine them and deal with them (like working with a coach, psychologist, or a trusted confidant or mentor) as we simultaneously work towards a dream career. As for lacks, one might have to go back to school or take on a learning position like an internship or assistant position to cover any profile gaps.

External barriers could be an insufficient income to go back to school, living in a location without relevant jobs, or lacking the emotional or social support to pursue career goals. External barriers can be either beyond or within our control, but nonetheless require imagination to creatively transform them into opportunities.

What are my resources and opportunities? Instead of focusing only on what we don’t have and what we need, take stock of resources that can open up doors to discovering and achieving career passions. Resources can include tapping into your personal and professional networks and industry organizations (e.g. SIMA and SIA) and industry publications (e.g. Malakye), and educational opportunities through your job or local community (e.g. company sponsored education or industry related volunteer opportunities).

What is my risk tolerance? Go gung-ho or take it one small step at a time? Life’s complications can deter us from answering our calling, but it doesn’t have to if our goals and objectives are broken down into manageable steps. Do you have a family to care for? Are they on board for drastic change or do you need to make a smooth transition? Or, are you just starting out in your career and can couch surf until you realize your goals? Either way, it can be done if you know how you and those dependent on you can handle risk and change as you walk your path.

By identifying motivations, interests and values and working with what already exists in our lives (the good, the bad, and the ugly) we’re better equipped to take manageable steps. Breaking down objectives daily, weekly, and annually (while being flexible with who you are and with what is going on) can turn abstract desires into a concrete reality.

Committing To Yourself and Rediscovering Your Passions

Not all of us get that ah-ha moment where we wake up knowing exactly what we should do with our lives and how it should all be done. And, finding our career passion isn’t a discovery that happens just once in your life. After a while, it’s possible to burn out and feel the need to begin a new incarnation of passion. By committing to yourself through action - recognizing what you want to give and achieve and by doing what it takes to continually overcome what stands in your way - you can awaken and sustain your career passion on a daily basis.