By Barbara Poole, M.S., MCC
There's a book that's been on the market for a while that suggests that if you do what you love, the money will follow. I'm often asked by clients, who are contemplating making career transitions, whether I agree with this advice. And my response is always, "Yes and no."
All of us have fantasized about the ideal job. You know, the one that would feel more like play than work, that would provide sufficient free time to lead a balanced life, that would be stimulating and fulfilling, would complement our personal styles, and would pay us generously. Is it really possible to find a job like that? You bet, but it's about a lot more than simply doing what you love.
Over the years of coaching people on career transition issues, I've developed a formula of sorts that can be used to help you zero in on finding the job or professional situation that's right for you. It looks like this:
( P + B + O ) x A = Career Fulfillment
Now, before you start scratching your head and wondering whether I'm suggesting that the road to career happiness lies in becoming a math wizard, let me interpret.
In this equation, "P" stands for passion. Getting back to the book title, there really is significance to figuring out what you love to do. Many of the traditional career inventories label this piece "interests". I believe it's about more than that. There are a lot of things I'm interested in that I would not want to be involved with every day. Passion goes deeper than interests. It's about identifying those activities, situations and causes that are stimulating and compelling enough so that you could lose yourself in them. You know you've uncovered a passion when you're involved in an activity that is so intriguing, so fascinating and so much fun that you lose track of time when you're engaged in it.
While passion is critical to career fulfillment, it's not enough. That's where the second letter in the equation comes in. "B" stands for brilliance. This has to do with talent, aptitude and your natural gifts. All of us have unique skill sets that are a part of who we are. While it may take specific training to fully develop these skills, there are innate qualities to what we're gifted in. Think of those things that you do easily and naturally, those things that other people tell you you're really good at. These qualities and talents represent your brilliance.
Now that we've uncovered two letters in the equation, let me illustrate why they're both critical. I happen to be passionately interested in writing poetry. I love it, and I can totally lose myself when I'm working on my next verse or a brief haiku. The problem is, I'm just mediocre at it. If I tried to publish my poetry, chances are I would be in for a very long wait for a taker. It's simply not my brilliance.
By contrast, I have a teenage son who is a math whiz. Mathematical concepts that would totally baffle me have come easily to him since he was a toddler. Does this mean he should pursue a career that relies on math skills? No way, and it's not because he's not good at it. It's because it simply doesn't interest him. The passion isn't there.
The third letter in equation, "O", stands for opportunity. In contrast to passion and brilliance, which reflect internal factors, opportunity is about external considerations. It has to do with whether there's a need or desire in the larger marketplace for the skills and activities that you are passionate about and brilliant at. This is where idealism meets reality. Think of it this way: You might be passionately interested in, and brilliant at, making buggy whips. But it's highly unlikely that this combination will spawn the career of a lifetime in the 21st century.
One word of caution about opportunity: Don't be too quick to rule out an idea simply because there's no obvious or immediate opportunity for it. You could be on to a possibility that's cutting edge and could be a market leader. In this case, your challenge is to do your homework and help the potential customers or employers who might benefit from your idea to think big, and into the future.
All of which leads us to the final variable in the equation. "A" stands for action. I've bracketed the other elements in the equation and used the "A" as a multiplier, because in the final analysis it comes down to this: All the passion, brilliance and opportunity in the world won't make a bit of difference to your career unless you choose to take action around your ideas. This can mean pursuing further education, getting additional training, doing market research, networking, conducting information interviews, and a host of other activities. In other words, creating a career transition strategy and then putting yourself out there.
The option to create a fulfilling career is yours for the taking IF you elect to work the equation and get into action. The choice is yours!
©Barbara Poole, Success Builders, Inc., 2001