Do what you love seems like solid career advice, especially if what you are doing for work right now is soul sucking; anything that offers refuge from that looks like a viable option. At some point in your career “do what you love” helps to make choices and options crystal clear, but that clarity can also be rare and elusive. Pursuing a beloved hobby as a career (or as a business) isn’t always the answer, as many find out when what they loved to do quickly turns into obligation…or an administrative nightmare. Doing what you love is a noble goal, but it is not easy or quick.
No one should take on paying work that isn’t meaningful (at least not for your whole working life). However, there are times in life when you have to do what you have to do, and every piece of work you complete adds to your career perspective. To help gel this concept I’ll use an example from my past. I didn’t enjoy waitressing as a vocation one little bit. It is a noble job (and a necessary one, or none of us would be able to enjoy eating out), but for me it wasn’t meaningful. However, I learned a lot from it. I learned that how you are treated (by your employer, or by the customer) depends a lot on how much you respect yourself. If you don’t think you deserve it you will not get tips, or fight to keep your tips when your boss doesn’t pass on the ones from the credit card slips only he sees. If you do not use your voice to advocate for yourself and your reasonable needs you will not receive sensible notice of your shifts so you can juggle two jobs. I learned I was not motivated to be a career waitress and because of this I knuckled down with more focus in school to ensure I would get into university. When people ask me how I made my career choices it was more about what I did not want to do then what I wanted to do…in the beginning. Maybe it is the same for you.
Being told at the beginning of your working life that you should love what you do is like asking a newborn to get up and walk. What we love to do is always something we can name, but isn’t necessarily something we know how to make happen…and it changes throughout our working life. To find that special something you could invest in for a lifetime you need to understand yourself through your work, and that takes time. You need to try new things, some you will love and some you will despise. You need to fail at things you want to be really good at, to learn resilience and occasionally (as you begin to master skills) to surprise yourself. You need to “fake it until you make it” terrified that every new day will bring you closer to being found out…and then come to eventually learn that no one will likely find you out because they are all faking it too. You need to train others to take on work you are leaving behind while being grateful to put it carefully in someone else’s hands. You need to stand up to a boss or employer who is less than professional or accountable for his or her workplace behaviour. You need to support others in the work they are doing, being part of a team, collaborating to build something bigger than any one person could possible achieve. You need to see how you make a difference, learn what gets you out of bed in the morning…and to hear your own heart as it quietly expresses pride in your accomplishments as you drift into sleep at night.
No one should have a career path that is only made up of “doing what you gotta do”, this is the very definition of soul-sucking. However, doing what you love is only possible when you are ready to take on the huge responsibility of doing it the way your heart and moral compass have been guiding you towards all along. Doing what you love is not the “safe” choice, or the way to make quick money. It is not the easiest path or the one with clear results. It takes courage and resilience built into the deepest confidence and knowledge of yourself. You may have to defend your actions each and every step of the way…and still be able to sleep well most nights. You will have to override the concerns of those you love, and occasionally even your own practicalities, to focus on and distil what you love in your work and pursue it.
Most of us will not get to do what we love for the majority of our careers, even though we all deserve to. What we love isn’t always sustainable as a career or business…it isn’t always in our control to make happen. Yet, this is a life example of when the journey is more important than the destination because you need experience to figure out what it is you love to do, what you could happily arise to continue doing each and every day of your working life. Once you have found that piece, you’ll be amazed at the number of places and the types of work where it is present. On the way to figuring out what you love, work for people who can teach you remarkable things, do work that makes a difference to someone else’s life and go home at night knowing you have done your best every day. Own your accomplishments and your mistakes. Smile at yourself in the mirror and live the big juicy life you want on heartfelt terms. If you can do this, then you will have something even more powerful than doing what you love, you will love yourself in what ever you do, which is something you do control and will make you happy every day.
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.