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Finding Your Career Passion

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Bottom Line/Personal: Where you’re interested in underwater botany or genetic engineering or who knows what, there’s a career that’ll match your passion… but sometimes it’s hard to find what that passion is and then find that career. Well, let’s help you do that.

I’m Sarah Hiner, President of Bottom Line Publications, and this is our Conversations with the Experts, where we get the answers to your tough questions from our leading experts.

Today I’m talking to Nancy Collamer, a leading career coach, speaker, and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. Welcome, Nancy.

Nancy Collamer: Thanks.

Bottom Line: It’s amazing to me how many people, if you ask them what your passion is, have no idea. They know they’re not happy with what they’re doing; they know that there’s something called passion, but they have no idea what it might be.

Collamer: Yeah, you are so right. I am as guilty as the next person out there in terms of overusing that word “passion.” The fact of the matter is, Sarah, that most of us don’t have one passion. Yeah, Michael Jordan may be a rare example of somebody who from the time he was small had a passion for basketball, and we all know people that from the time they were little wanted to become the doctor or wanted to be the actress. Most of us aren’t like that, though. And that’s why I usually say to people; don’t worry about that word “passion.” Don’t get overwhelmed by that.

Bottom Line: The pressure of hearing that.

Collamer: Instead, think of PASSION as an acronym. And by that, I mean think of “P” as being people. Who are the people you want to work around? Do you like being around kids? Do you like being around older people? Around a diverse group of people from many different countries? Because the people who you work with, I will tell you from the work that I do with clients, make all the difference in the world. So the “P” stands for people.

“A” is activities. What are the things that you enjoy doing? Think about it in terms of, obviously, the workplace. Are you someone who likes to write or to speak? Perhaps you’re the person who always gets called upon to organize the company picnic. What are the skills and activities that you enjoy using? And think outside the workplace, too. What are the things at home and in your personal life that you really enjoy doing?

The “S” stands for settings. What type of environments do you feel most comfortable in? Some people love being in that corporate, buttoned-up type environment; other people would hate to be in that type of setting. So think about the environment and the setting that you want to be in.

The second “S” obviously stands for skills. What are the skills that you want to be able to use in this next job? Do you enjoy doing public speaking? Really dig down, because we all have skills – we all have many skills, but they’re not necessarily things that we enjoy doing.

The “I” stands for interest. What are you interested in? What types of TV shows do you watch? What types of movies do you like to go to? What books do you read? Think about where are your areas of interest?

And then the “O” and the “N” at the end of the word PASSION stand for opportunities and needs, because you might really enjoy doing something, but if you’re not meeting a need in the marketplace, nobody’s going to hire you to do it. Aristotle once said, “Where your talents and the needs of the world collide, that’s where your vocation is.”

So think about, where are the opportunities in the workplace? What are the needs? Where are the gaps? How can I fill those? And when you match that with the interests and the skills that you have, that’s where the passion happens.

Bottom Line: What happens if they identify the passion – they decide the marketplace they want, they decide the skills they want to do, they know where their interests are – and yet the money isn’t quite what they’re used to. Now they have to make a financial decision: passion or fancy vacations? How do they balance that?

Collamer: Yeah, sometimes you do have to make those tradeoffs. There’s just no getting around it. But many times, there are ways to still feel your passion. Let’s say you’re somebody who’s interested in becoming an actor, but we’ve all heard about starving actors. Maybe you can’t start out like that, but maybe there’s a theater arts production company that you could go to work for in some sort of administrative role.

It may not be your dream job, but if it puts you in the world that you want to be in, you’re going to be a whole lot happier. Within every type of industry, every type of profession, there are different levels; there are different types of roles that you can play. So think about how you can at least get yourself on the right playing field because once you’ve landed there, once you’ve proved yourself, then other opportunities will start to open up.

Bottom Line: I’ll answer my own question a little bit; there’s something that we talk about all the time, that money in some ways is a short-term motivator – within reason. You have to be able to pay your mortgage, right? But you might also need to understand that perhaps driving the fancy cars – really? You think it’s lighting your fire? It really isn’t. And that less money, in an environment with people for a topic that you really love, is far more fulfilling than all the tradeoffs of really just going for that top dollar.

Collamer: Another way to sometimes approach this is that you don’t necessarily do just one job. A friend of mine right now, who is working as an actor, is working as a waiter. Sort of the classic New York story. But he’s using the waiter job to pay the bills so that he can also pursue the acting gig on the side.

And the reality is, that’s the way a lot of people are working these days; people are juggling two and three different income streams at the same time. And sometimes it’s a case where your main job may be something that you like; it’s not necessarily your overwhelming passion, but it may give you a lifestyle where you then have enough time in your free time to pursue you passion. So lots of different ways that you can slice and dice this.

Bottom Line: All right, thank you, Nancy Collamer.

Collamer: You’re welcome.

Bottom Line: The bottom line is if you’re in the middle of a career change or just trying to identify your career and trying to do something that really lights your fire, take the pressure off yourself. Some people always, always knew what they wanted to be, and if you’re not one of them, that’s okay.

Do a self-assessment. Look at the people; what kind of environments do you want to be in? Big, small, outside, inside, corporate, formal, informal. There are so many other aspects of the workday that it isn’t just about are you swimming with the dolphins just like you always dreamed of swimming with the dolphins? Now that’s it. Interest is a part of it, so think about what interests you as well. But take the pressure off of yourself that it has to be just about this one thing.

And as far as money’s concerned – because sometimes all those passionate, mission-driven jobs don’t pay so well – that’s okay, too. Evaluate the money needs you have and what you really need, because sometimes chasing after that dollar isn’t necessarily worth it.

After you’ve done a little bit of self-evaluation, relax. The right job will come along. Taste them out, try them out. You might need a little bit of flexibility to be able to do a job that pays the bills and a job that gives you all that fun and heart drive as well. There are so many options. This is Sarah Hiner with Bottom Line.

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Nancy Collamer, a career counselor, speaker, and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. She also writes a semi-monthly career column for NextAvenue.com (PBS) and Forbes.com. MyLifestyleCareer.com

Date: January 30, 2015 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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