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Passion Finder

By Marty Nemko

Some people jump out of bed on workday mornings, whether their day will consist of cleaning toilets or appearing on Oprah.

But most people are situationally passionate, that is, they're passionate under certain conditions. Are you any of these?

Prestige-Driven. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, politicians, bankers, executives, and school administrators are often motivated by prestige.

Word Driven. Many magazine editors, lawyers, professors, talk show hosts, sports announcers, journalists, freelance writers, novelists, librarians, and speechwriters love working with words.

People-Driven. Many politicians, salespeople, teachers, corporate/government/non-profit managers and executives, genetic counselors, law enforcement personnel, sports/literary/artist's agents, mediators, and personal coaches love working with people.

Driven to Create. Many screenwriters, jewelry makers, musicians, car customizers, web designers, computer game programmers clothing or fabric designers, winemaker, photographers, cosmetician, haircutters, home stagers, computer programmers, die makers, animators, cinematographers, interior decorators, landscape designers, and grant proposal writers love the act of creation.

Science/Math Driven. Many doctors, nurse, winemakers, computer programmers, public health officials, statisticians, financial analysts and engineers are science/math driven.

Driven to Perform. Many motivational speakers, actors, politicians, teachers, trainers, talk show hosts, artistic performers, trial lawyers are passionate about performing.

Driven to Investigate. Many scientists, journalists, librarians, social science researchers, detectives or criminalists, writers, professors, program evaluators, and forensic accountants such as IRS agents, love the process of investigation.

Cause-driven. Many health care professionals, social workers, teachers, non-profit lobbyists, counselors and coaches, dieticians, fundraisers, policymakers, doulas, and adoption specialists love working for a cause they believe in.

Adrenaline-Addicted. These people crave competition and pressure. Examples: stock brokers, bond traders, paramedics, stunt people, event planners, chefs, small business owners, police officers, debt collections specialists.

Money-Driven. Examples: Insurance salespeople, lawyers, stock portfolio managers.

Driven by Glamour. Fashion show coordinators, casting directors, gossip columnists, celebrity photographers, celebrity personal assistants.

Driven by a work environment. Arborists, landscape designers, farmers, anyone enjoying working in a fancy office building or an college campus, jobs in the wilderness such as field biologist or park ranger, ship captains.

Driven by love of an object. For example, rose breeders, farriers, pyrotechnicians, pet groomers, guitar makers, pilots, bookbinders, cabinetmakers, art importers.

Driven by autonomy. These people are often business owners or artists.

The surest route to success is to clone an already proven business and place it in a different location. You're especially likely to succeed if it's a simple business with low start-up costs and high profit margins, for example, owning espresso carts that you'd place next to busy train stations.

Driven to work with your hands. Many robot or computer repairpersons, antique restorers, countertop installers, and electricians enjoy working with their hands.

More Questions to Tease Out Career Passion

You get animated when talking about what?

Do you have a knack for something unusual ? For example, some people can write well and very quickly. Others stay calm under enormous pressure. Others could sell guns to pacifists. Still others are magicians when making things out of wood? If you do have a core skill or ability, where would you be excited to use it?

Is there a tool you love to use? It could, for example, be a computer, a sewing machine, or a microscope. Even books can be considered tools.

What problems have you solved in which you enjoyed the process? Think of problems you’ve solved at work and outside of work.

What if Nothing Makes You Passionate?

None of the above unearthed a dream career for you? That’s fine. Fine? Yes, because so-called dream careers tend to be dream careers for many people, so the competition to get into them is usually fierce. And once in, salaries are often low or the pressure high. That's why many lawyers do ethically questionable things. Dozens of lawyers, equally smart, are willing to do whatever it takes to win.

Fact is, most people who are happy in their career are not in some dream career. As long as you're doing meaningful work, are appreciated by boss and co-workers, are paid reasonably, and work in a pleasant setting, you may be happier in a seemingly average job than most people are in so-called dream careers.

And here's more good news. Jobs with those characteristics are not overly difficult to land, especially if you look for them an under-the-radar field. For example, few people aspire to be in videoconferencing or mobile park brokerage. So, if you search for work in under-the-radar fields, you're more likely to get multiple job offers, so you can pick one with interesting work, in an attractive office, with nice officemates, a short commute, and good compensation.

Indeed, Thomas Stanley and William Danko, authors of The Millionaire Next Door, interviewed 750 millionaires and found that a large percentage of them owned "dull normal" businesses--and almost all of them really liked their careers.

So, here are a few basic questions that may tease out what, in reality, will be key in making you pleased with your job. Are any of these important to you?

· Working mainly with words, people, numbers, or concrete objects?

· In a certain location?

· Working with people or alone?

· Making a certain salary? (Specify)

· A career that uses a degree you already hold?

· Being your own boss?

· A prestigious job title?

· A big-picture or detail-oriented job?

Something else?

So, for example, if you found a job that required people skills, in an attractive office 20 minutes from your home and paid the salary you desired, how'd you feel? If you're like many of my clients, you'd feel great.

What Ultimately Leads to Career Contentment Here is what matters more than any of the above in increasing contentment with job and otherwise. I have a client who earns $250,000 a year selling insurance. He is in good health, has a good wife, and an attractive house. And he's angry. Always angry. If he has to cold call and the caller hangs up on him, he's angry. If the prospect takes too long before saying yes, he's angry. He's missing the one ingredient that makes some people content with their lives and others, with the exact same job, miserable: asense of gratitude. Gratitude that he's healthy. Gratitude that he's not living in squalor. Gratitudeforte opportunity to talkwith people to hear about their problem, and sometimes to solve them, making an excellent living in the process.

All our glasses can be viewed as half-empty or half-full. Choose half-full and you're most of the way home to feeling good about your career and your life.

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