I hear it time and time again. Find something you are passionate about and make that your career. Do something that you love and you will never work a day in your life. My Facebook timeline is full of people declaring that they gave up their stuffy 9-5 office job, followed their heart and are now making 7 figures a year. It sounds like a very attractive option, but it is really that easy?
Let's start with what most people are passionate about. Travel, animals, their family, creating, health and fitness and the environment. However it can be hard to identify exactly what it is that sparks a flame of excitement within you. For example, I love to travel. I love airports, flying, seeing new places and meeting new people. I like to travel alone and also with my family. When I think about travelling I get excited and it definitely ignites a passion in me. However when I think about it in terms of a career, I don't get that spark. None of the conventional roles such as travel agent, cabin crew, travel writer or photographer hold any appeal to me. And if I am honest, travelling continually for work is not what I am after either.
So it may be that some of our passions simply do not translate into roles which are similarly appealing. I know many animal lovers who would never be interested in a vet, vet nurse, zoo keeper or pet shop type role. Again, as with me, their passion does not translate to a job for them.
There are also some people who find it hard to identify what they actually feel passionate about. There are some things that they enjoy and plenty of things that they like, but when they see those FB adverts urging them to follow their dream, the reality is that they do not have one to follow. This can be a bit stressful and can leave people feeling a bit lost when they don't have the direction, the aims and the desires that they feel that they should have.
We also need to remember that if we urged everyone to follow their passion and to settle for nothing less then we simply could not function as a society any more. I find it hard to accept that we would be able to find enough people who identify administration as their passion, or cleaning hospitals as their passion, or waiting tables as their passion. We also need to work with in the realms of reality. Having a real desire to do something is wonderful, but some roles really need certain skill sets and qualifications or experience which many of us do not have.
I work with many women who do not want to be stay at home mums. Whether their children are babies or of school age, they have realised that staying at home is not the life that they want to live. Having taken a break of however long has allowed them to reflect and often reassess their career choices. There is often the desire to reduce hours, look for flexible working or make a complete change which will be more suitable for their lifestyle.
All of this is totally possible. But it is not as simple as following your passion. Re-training is hard work and often requires longer hours than working in a role which you are already trained for. Learning new skills at the same time as raising a young family can test your resilience to the absolute limit. It can also mean a big drop in salary from your established career.
Starting your own business is another popular option, surely you will be your own dream employer! What is often unseen is the hours of administration, accounting, marketing, sales, planning, writing and general slog which goes in behind the scenes to deliver the perfect product or service. For example, delivering a health and fitness retreat would require a lot of planning and admin in the initial stages along with how to finance it and then costing out the project. From their a large proportion of the time would be spent reaching those people who may be interested through networking, social media and other marketing channels. Then their would be a lot of logistics to organise before and during the retreat. So one blissful week of delivering your message and making change for good in people's lives can be the result of a good 3-6 months of hard work in areas where you have little experience or passion.
Despite all of the above, I am still a believer that you should enjoy what you do. We spend far too long at work to be unhappy or unfulfilled. But I think we should remove the pressure that we put ourselves under to find and follow our passion. Sometimes a change such as lessening the commute, finding a team into which we can easily fit, having a great supporting manager, being employed by a flexible and family friendly company can be as rewarding in every way as finding a role or starting a business which follows our heart's passion.
Finance has never been and will never be my passion. Believe it or not, I do not get excited by the thought of a spreadsheet, a tax return or financial year end. I spent 23 years working in finance roles and have enjoyed all except one of those. I have worked with and met amazing people. I have learned about so many different industries. I have had some great, inspiring bosses. I have been part of close and supportive teams. I have continued to learn.
When I started Playroom to Boardroom, it was not because I hated finance. Quite simply it felt like the right thing to do at that time. As a mother of young children I could see issues and problems faced by others. I could see discrimination and bias within organisations. I could see how companies and individuals could make the return to work easy, uncomplicated and rewarding for all parties. Was it a passion of mine? Yes it was. But probably not one that I would have listed on my top 10 things that I was passionate about.
My advice is that it is worth spending time thinking about your passion. But it is not the end of the road for you if you can not identify your passion or how you can translate that into a career for yourself. It is entirely possible to keep those passions as hobbies and pass times and spend your whole career in a role or roles which are not linked to your passions and still be happy and feel fulfilled.