Beth Cabrera, author of Women, Work and Well-Being, and an endorser of Ambition Redefined, recently wrote an article that I think you should share with everyone you know: your friends, your kids, your colleagues and most importantly, yourself. The title is “Want to Be Happy At Work? Forget About Passion”, and it’s one of the most common sense articles I’ve read.
As a career coach I find that women of all ages struggle to find that one amazing thing that should be their career passion. If current professionals think they have not yet found it, they tend to discount a lot of good work they currently do. If women on hiatus with family can’t pinpoint that one amazing passion, they tend to think returning to work will be a lot of flailing around.
But as Beth points out, lots of people don’t have one professional passion, they have many. I always loved writing, but I also have felt pretty passionate about research, event planning, training and many other professional activities. And sometimes the things we really feel passionate about and long to run off and do…like travel, volunteer to help kids read, play tennis, or learn new languages…just aren’t going to pay the bills.
The most important point is that you want to pursue work that fits and enhances your life—both personally and professionally. Beth has good suggestions about looking for a job where you can build your portfolio of skills, make a visible impact and benefit from relationships with people you enjoy.
To Beth’s great suggestions, I add these four:
- Don’t wear yourself out pursuing too many ardent passions at once. Most women have great passion for cultivating and caring for family—and responsibilities for children and aging parents are often all-consuming. Give yourself a break and find work that you like—you probably won’t ever find a job that you love as much as your family.
- Favor careers that will fit life—at every age and stage. An inflexible career that you might feel passionate when you aren’t caring for children or aging parents—like surgery or investment banking—may lose its sizzle when workplaces are rigid, hours are long and family time is scarce. Make sure you know the six different kinds of flexwork and the industries and job functions that more easily bend.
- Choose jobs that build financial security over time. Everyone has a passion for avoiding financial worry—but it’s not only very highly compensated jobs that can get you to a comfortable place. Look for competitive salaries and room for growth. When you stay in the workforce and consistently earn, save and invest, all jobs can make your retirement years secure.
- Make sure you’re not following someone else’s passion. Early in our careers we can be swayed by what parents or friends think is the most prestigious or profitable career path. Today the message from the power sisterhood is for all women to get to the C-Suite…stat. We all can create our own brand of ambition and success. Remember to do the work that makes you happy and fits your life.
When I was launching my career the professional bible was What Color is Your Parachute, and more than 10 million readers have tried to figure out if they are metaphorically a solid red, green, yellow or blue. The reality is that we’re all a dab of this and a dab of that—and that colorful palette gives us the flexibility to pursue many life-friendly career paths. —KAS