I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day about choosing a work situation that was vastly more interesting than the drugery she was currently doing. She said:
"I know that I am really burned out on the work that I am doing with my current company. But I know that I need to keep making good money so that I can put my girls through college and save enough for retirement. I am afraid that by the time I can afford to do work I really want, I will be too old to enjoy it."
I firmly believe that you can get paid to do work you love. However, the process of making it happen requires a lot of work, research, and practice. Think about it as if you were learning a new sport. Let’s say you wanted to take up tennis for the first time. You have two possible approaches:
Approach #1: Declare: I think I would love to be an excellent tennis player!
- Do nothing else. Challenge an experienced player to a match and hope that you win, even though you have never picked up a racket before.
Approach #2: Declare: I think I would love to be an excellent tennis player!
- Research the local tennis market. Identify where you can take lessons in your local area.
- Visit a number of schools. Observe the instructors with students and see if you relate to their teaching style. Talk to each one and interview them.
- Borrow or rent the required equipment. Do not invest in expensive gear until you have had a chance to see if you truly like it or not.
- Go to your local Park and Recreation and practice hitting the ball against the wall.
- Take lessons from your carefully screened instructor.
- Invite a friend that plays tennis to hit the ball around with you.
- Search the web for tennis-related sites.
- Go to the library and check out any tennis-related books that interest you.
- Practice some more.
- Once you get better, join a local recreation league or invite friends to play with you on a regular basis.
- Play a lot.
- Practice some more.
- Ask yourself "after all of this research, practice and playing, do I have any real talent to play tennis? Most importantly, do I enjoy doing it? If the answer is yes, you are on your way to becoming an excellent tennis player.
You CAN make good money doing work that you love. But in order to do so, you will need to carefully research your field of interest to find out where the money is, learn from great mentors and coaches, read and surf the web voraciously, and get yourself out there in front of people in your field to show what you have got. This takes time, patience and practice. You may find when you are testing out the real work that it isn’t as interesting as you thought it would be. This is good! Now get on with testing out another great idea. Sooner or later, you will find yourself in the happy state of doing work you love and getting paid well for it.
I don’t know about “do what you love” or the related “you can be anything you want to be”. I do know that you can only be engaged and fulfilled by working in alignment with your talents. Often you discover your talents through doing something you love, and it’s important to separate the activity and the talent. If you engage in an activity and lose all track of time, that’s an indicator that you have found your Human Sigma. Try to find the essence of what you were doing at that time so you can apply the same talent theme in a different context.
The best way to find your talent themes is to find a coach who is able to take you through the Clifton StrengthsFinder. In this assessment you will find your top 10 to 12 talent themes in rank order and also your bottom 15 talent themes. The plan forward from there is to only develop the talents you are strongest in, and them move what you do at work to gradually be focussed on using those talents. Do not try to improve your weak areas. Get people on your team who are strong in the talent themes you are weak in.