Passion Can Drive Your Career

Whether it last happened today or 20 years ago, most of us have been hit with that pit-of-the-stomach, Monday-morning moment of questioning: Why do I work here? Is this all there is?

What's missing for many American workers is passion, a positive emotional connection to our work -- often our most energy-consuming pursuit. The good news is that with introspection, planning, action and support, you can redirect your career to incorporate what truly excites and invigorates you.

Passion Drives the Most Successful Careers

In the context of work, passion is more than a best-seller buzzword, according to Sally Hogshead, author of Radical Careering. "The word 'passion' has a cheesy connotation, but you have to see it as a nonnegotiable element of your career success," she says. "In fact, if you're going to be your most successful, you have to be passionate."

To put the drive back into your career, you first must get back in touch with what energizes you. "Look back over the course of your life -- even back to when you were 12 years old -- and seek patterns in what you like about what you've done," says Lawler Kang, author of Passion at Work. "Try to come up with a high-level passion, even a mission. Then ask, 'Does this job meet my personal mission?' whatever that mission is."

Your passion may take many forms: working with people, grappling with an organizational puzzle, telling stories or building that better mousetrap. It's wise to come up with more than one endeavor that energizes you, because some passions don't lend themselves easily to a career.

Put Passion into Your Work

Don't make the mistake of assuming that any work activity that touches on your passion will automatically gratify you. "Even if you're interested in golf, it's unlikely you'll stay interested in working in a golf store and selling equipment," says Julie Jansen, author of I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This.

Suppose you've got the talent and decide you want to be a golf pro. For a successful candidacy, you need to lay out a plan that will help you put all the pieces together. "You've got to get some substantial stuff on your resume -- fill in the blanks, repackage yourself, get training," says Jansen. A reality check with professionals in your target occupation is key.

Inject Passion into Your Job Opportunistically

Of course, many of us don't have the time and money to undertake a total career change. Big changes typically come with big expenses. But some professionals develop creative ways to infuse their careers with a passion that has been a long-term avocation.

"A client of mine, an account executive at a global ad agency, is passionate about health," says William Arruda, a consultant with Reach Communications Consulting. "So she came up with several ways to inject her passion into the daily grind." The account executive worked with the on-site cafeteria to design healthful menus, led after-work yoga and kickboxing courses and gained a healthcare company as a client.

That's one way to serve up a career with a side of passion.

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