American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

How Do You Discover Your Professional Passion?

by Steve Ritch

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.

Joseph Campbell, American Mythologist, Writer, and Lecturer

Are you working in your dream job? Do you enjoy what you do? We all have certain tasks to perform in our day-to-day work that may not be exciting or even likeable, but if you can answer "Yes." to both of these questions, then you are well ahead of the curve.

But suppose you are one of the people who answered "No." to either or both questions. What can you do to discover your life's work? How do you find your professional passion?

There are plenty of career resources available to help you align your skills with things you're interested in doing. I will not pretend to be an expert in advising you to follow any particular pathway in discovering your professional bliss. However, if you conducted a side-by-side comparison of those career resources, you would see that many of the experts agree on four main questions to ask yourself to uncover your passion:

  • What did you want to be when you were growing up?
  • What would you be doing if you were free from any limitations?
  • What can you do most easily or what ability comes most naturally to you?
  • What does your dream job look like in terms of setting, working conditions, co-workers, etc.?

Let's take some time to examine each one of these questions in more depth to see if they help find define your passion.

"What did you want to be when you were growing up?" You may be thinking, "How is this going to help me now?" Perhaps you wanted to be something that is a little bit outside of the norm for most people, such as an astronaut or a ballerina. Well, it may be a little late to break into the space program or join a ballet troupe, but you can still look at aspects of those careers that speak to you. For example, is it space travel that most appealed to you about being an astronaut or was it the chance to make exciting discoveries, to enjoy a physically and mentally demanding career, or to work on a multi-disciplined team on complex missions? You may not be able to take part in a space launch, but you can still have a great career that includes some of the aspects you've just identified.

"What would you be doing if you were free from any limitations?" This is such a great question because most of our limitations are ones that we put on ourselves. There may be some career restrictions, such as an age limit or specific training requirements for certain positions, but for the most part, there are very few limitations on what someone can accomplish with sufficient motivation. Ask yourself a few follow-up questions to help answer this main question:

  • Are the professional barriers I am facing coming from outside of me or are they self-imposed?
  • Who can help me remove some of those barriers?
  • What are some of the career resources I have at my disposal?

"What can you do most easily or what ability comes most naturally to you?" Did you ever know someone who just seemed able to talk to anyone? Perhaps you went to school with an individual who was a gifted athlete or someone who never seemed to study, yet consistently got top grades on every test. Well, we all have some ability that is uniquely ours. Maybe you can look at a jumble of papers and immediately design an elegant system of organization. Perhaps you have the ability to compute very complex mathematics in your head or to motivate your colleagues without fail. How can your unique abilities translate into your working environment?

Finally, "What does your dream job look like?" Are you an early morning person or a night owl? Do you like to talk with people all day, or are you interested in quiet, research-focused environments? Do you like a regular 9-to-5 position, or do you enjoy the variety of shift work? These are all questions to think about as you envision your dream job.

Unfortunately, no one else can create the perfect job for you. Finding your ideal position might take a great deal of time and introspection. In the meantime, however, you can concentrate on the four questions that—most experts seem to agree—can help you discover your passion. Once you have a clear vision of what you want, it will make it much easier to work toward that goal.

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