Hitting the Boxing Day sales back in January, I observed a young girl in a homewares store excitedly sharing plans for her new bedroom makeover.
As she spoke of her love of homewares, design and desire to become an interior decorator one day, I was struck by her complete sense of passion.
And clear vision for her future career at such a young age.
She reminded me of my younger sister at the same age. The creative little girl who turned her school projects into works of art. With dreams of becoming an interior designer when she grew up. 20 years later, my sister is a talented designer with a thriving business. She followed her passion, lives and breathes her work and absolutely loves what she does.
There’s also the childhood friend who declared back in primary school she was going to become a lawyer. She worked hard, performed well academically, went on to study law and become a practising lawyer.
What do these stories have in common?
Each of these individuals had a clear passion which they followed. They knew what they wanted. And their passions shaped their decisions and actions, turning their dreams into reality.
So, how do you work out what you want to be when you grow up?!
Read on to learn the 6 steps to finding your passion. Discover what you truly want from your professional life, so you can follow your passion and craft your dream career too.
STEP 1 – THINK LIKE A 10-YEAR OLD
I recently watched old family videos with my siblings. The old-school kind filmed on a VHS camcorder in the early 90’s. Well before smartphones with video functionality were invented!
It was incredible to see our personalities and passions visible at such a young age. There I was performing for the camera, wanting to be the centre of attention!
It took me back to when I was 10 years old. With multiple passions, I wanted to be an actress, writer, director and/or entertainer when I grew up. Careers that sounded glamorous, exciting, creative, full of variety and fun – where I could interact with people, be in the spotlight or be in charge!
It’s no surprise I became a coach and entrepreneur. Being in charge of my own schedule, connecting with people, writing, training or speaking to groups are all elements of what I do!
As a kid, you dreamt big. You believed the world was your oyster and that anything was possible.
And then you grew up.
Because of your conditioning – what your parents, teachers or society told you was the ‘right’ thing to do, you settled for a sensible job or traditional career path. One that gave you wealth, security or a steady pay cheque.
Go back to when you were 10 years old. What were you interested in? How did you love to spend your time? What did you want to be when you grew up?
From this unfiltered lens, your passions were clear. You had huge aspirations for the career and life you would one day create.
Answering these questions from the perspective of your 10 year old self will reveal your innate talents and passions. Reconnecting with your childhood interests is the first step to figuring out your passion.
STEP 2 – REFLECT ON YOUR PAST CAREER
Next, reflect on your career history, past positions and decisions. Create a timeline, starting from your very first job through to the present day. Go as far back as you wish and include your studies, any work placements, internships or voluntary positions.
Reflect on each role, taking the time to consider the positive and negative aspects of each job and the reasons behind past career decisions.
- Why did you choose this career path or university major?
- What, specifically, did you like or dislike about this position?
- Which skills did you enjoy using and what were you naturally good at?
- What aspects of the job, organisation or environment did you find challenging?
- Why did you end up leaving this role and what did you decide to do next?
This process will help you understand your strengths, skills, interests and passions. It will become very clear from these past positions what you were good at and loved to do.
As an example, looking back on my recruitment career, I noticed I enjoyed variety in my work. And that I had a passion for communication, connection and interacting with people.
STEP 3 – MOVE FROM ANALYSIS TO ACTION
Once you’ve taken the time to reflect on your childhood interests and past career, the next step is to take action.
Endless research and Google searches will not uncover your passion. You need to have real conversations, actively explore potential career paths and test out new skills to discover where your true passions lie.
Using the insights gathered so far, make a note of your strengths, skills and interests. Be honest with yourself about what you’re passionate about and take action aligned in that direction.
STEP 4 – HAVE REAL CAREER CONVERSATIONS
The most valuable action step I took to uncover my passions, was conducting multiple career conversations with people doing work (or elements of work) I was interested in. Simply put, these were informal, interview style conversations, where I asked an individual to share their personal career story.
So, how do you do this?
Firstly, think about people you know doing work you’re interested in. It could be a specific job that fascinates you. A business model you find appealing. Or an industry sector or company you’re attracted to.
Look within your immediate personal and professional circle. Your wider network (friends of friends). And even industry experts or thought leaders you’re not directly connected to.
Secondly, reach out to these individuals. Explain you’re interested in the work they do. Ask if they’d be willing to share some insights about their career. People love talking about themselves and will be happy to discuss work they’re passionate about.
Ask each person what a typical day in their job looks like. Find out about the realities of their role – what they love about their job and the challenges. Understand their career path – how they got into this line of work, how their career has progressed and what the future opportunities are.
Thirdly, ask who else they’d suggest you speak to, or if they have any additional resources to recommend. Find out what you can do for them in return – introduce a contact or refer a potential client.
Finally, remember this is not a job interview. Don’t make the conversation about you, your career and potential job opportunities. Be very clear you’re not looking for a job. And if the conversation steers into interview territory or becomes about you, bring it back to the person in front of you.
STEP 5 – TEST OUT NEW SKILLS
To discover your true passion, the next step is to test out new skills of interest and pay attention to what resonates. You could do this by offering to take on new responsibilities at work. Through internships or voluntary positions. Short-term courses and workshops or formal, longer-term study.
When I was embarking on my career change, uncovering my passion and what to do next, I volunteered, started a post-graduate degree and tried out new skills including speaking, facilitation and coaching.
Next, I paid close attention to what resonated – what I was passionate about. And I kept taking action in that direction. For me, coaching strongly resonated and I continued to seriously explore it as my preferred career path.
Practically test out any new skills that appeal. Identify what resonates. And keep moving in that direction.
STEP 6 – OVERCOME FEARS WITH CONSISTENT ACTION
As soon as you begin to explore new possibilities, make changes or pursue your true passions, feelings of fear will likely surface.
Fear is an emotion designed to keep us from danger. But it also limits us to playing it safe and staying small. And it can hold you back from following your passion and creating a fulfilling career and life.
Fear is the reason you forgot all about that childhood dream. Your passion. What you wanted to be when you grew up.
It’s the reason you first settled for a ‘safe’ corporate job or traditional career path.
If fear rears its ugly head and threatens to hold you back – stay aligned to your passion. Keep taking consistent action, despite those fears.