Statistics show that, during your working years, you’ll spend roughly a third of your time at work. Let that sink in. You spend more time working than you do on any other activity in your life. That’s why finding career, not a job, is a key component of a fulfilling life.
It all comes down to the concept of career vs job. A job is something you do to pay the bills. A career pays the bills too, but it also affords you purpose, fulfillment and enjoyment. As a Managing Partner in executive recruitment, I’ve helped hundreds of candidates find their way to careers that make them excited to go to work in the morning.
If you’re ready to leave your “job” behind and start planning a “career”, here are three simple steps to get your started.
Identify Where Your Passion and Skills Intersect
It would be nice if passion was enough to pursue the career of your choice, but anyone who has ever seen an audition episode of American Idol knows that’s not true. Passion is what gets you motivated but, ultimately, you need to be great at whatever it is you want to do (and work hard at it) to get where you want to be.
Create two columns on a piece of paper. On one side, list all of the things you’re passionate about. On the other side, list all of the things you’re good at. Don’t hold back; write down everything and anything that comes to mind. Then brainstorm every career that appeals to you and falls at the intersection. Finally, do your research and figure out which careers are viable options.
After I left the U.S. Military, I had to go through this exercise myself. I had experience in management and engineering, but I didn’t particularly enjoy those types of jobs. On the other hand, I had a passion for leading, training and counseling people, and I was skilled at that as well. Some career paths I considered were practical, while I set aside others for reasons like pay, geography and quality of life. Executive recruiting ticked all of the boxes for me, and now I wake up every day thinking how good I have it.
Lay the groundwork
Now that you’ve got a short list of careers you’re interested in, figure out what you need in order to gain entry into those fields. Leverage your network of contacts to gain informational meetings with people in your desired industry or industries. This is a great way to confirm which careers you want to pursue, get invaluable advice, and also build relationships that you can leverage later when it’s time to search for jobs.
When going into a new field, you’ll usually (but not always) find that you need additional education. If you have the time and money, a graduate degree can be a great option for opening doors to a new career. But there are also night classes, associate’s degrees, seminars, volunteering and internships. Your informational meetings will help you determine what skill-building you need to do.
Finally, get ready to apply for jobs. You’ll want to rethink and rewrite your cover letter and resume. Present your background in a way that spins your experience and skill set to be most appealing to prospective employers.
Find the Perfect Fit
When you finally crack a new industry, it’s tempting to take any opportunity you can. But it’s important to think about whether it’s an environment where you can thrive. There’s nothing worse than finally clinching a job in the field of your dreams, only to discover that you’ve landed at a company that’s not the right fit or working with people with whom that you don’t get along. Your new career could stall before it even gets started!
Think about your work style and what type of company culture best suits you. For example, if you’re a self-starting multi-tasker, then a small start-up might be right for you. If you work best in a collaborative environment, perhaps a company that has a team-based approach to projects might be up your alley. Ask thoughtful questions during your interviews and make sure you meet your future team members before accepting any position.
Even with all the best due diligence, it’s still possible to end up in a great job that’s a bad fit. If that happens, your job is to give it 100% and try to make it work no matter what. Job hoppers come across as wishy washy to employers, so demonstrate stability and make the best of the situation for at least a year before moving on to greener pastures.
Keep in mind that finding your career passion and bringing it to life doesn’t happen overnight. It can take months or even years, depending on how dramatic a change you’re making. But in the end, a career you love is worth the commitment.
How have you discovered and pursued your career passion? Tell us your story in the comments below.