5 Easy Ways to Discover Your Passion, Even With a Full-Time Job
There are inexpensive and low-risk ways to discover your passion, without sacrificing stability or a paycheck.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
My eight-year-old son is very focused on his career. Almost daily, he muses about all of the things he could be when he grows up: "brain doctor," "businessperson," "leader of a robot army," inventor or pianist. The other day he announced, "Dad, I've narrowed it down to 26 possible jobs when I grow up, but I only have 10 more years to figure it out. I need to work on narrowing down the list."
Career anxiety isn't limited to my precocious eight-year-old. In fact, it's particularly intense among millennials. I was recently chatting with a fellow parent whose son is in his mid-20s and working at a hedge fund, where he's miserable. He's hesitant to leave his job because of its compensation and prestige. My instinct was to call him and persuade him to do something else. Otherwise, I worry that he'll wake up at 50 and be financially secure but unhappy. I've seen this happen to others, and I'm lucky it didn't happen to me.
The struggle to find a career that fuels your passion is real. But most people don't have the resources or flexibility to prioritize professional fulfillment over practicality -- and passions with a paycheck are a rarity.
So, what happens if your job is just okay? It doesn't thrill you, but you don't have the resources or flexibility to follow that trite career advice and "follow your dreams"? Fortunately, there are inexpensive, low-risk ways to evaluate potential passions and find the right path, without sacrificing stability or a paycheck. Consider the following:
1. Enroll in a class
Take a night class at a local college, sign up for a Lynda.com course or watch free Khan Academy lectures. Don't dive into a new field right away; spend some time learning about it before leaving your current role.
2. Reach out to someone working in a different field
Get a flavor of what his/her day-to-day looks like. Most people are willing to help, and coffee is a lot less expensive than an MBA.
3. Volunteer at a startup
Considering moving into tech? Try volunteering part time at an incubator or a startup to learn without leaving your day job. Most startups are hungry for talent, so they'll welcome your skills. Plus, you'll build relationships in the tech community and learn if it's the right fit for you.
4. Lend your skills to your community
If you want to give back to your community, many local organizations would undoubtedly be grateful for your help. Last fall at Zillow Group, we hosted our first Tech Volunteer Fair, an employee-led initiative to match tech- and marketing-savvy professionals with local Seattle organizations in need of skilled volunteers. Volunteering allows you to further hone your skills and explore potential career paths along the way.
5. Get to know your current employer's mission
Learn more about your current company's mission, if you haven't already. It's easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of any job, but consider how your work feeds to a larger mission that impacts others. Sometimes we don't need to change careers to ignite our passion. We just need to shift our thinking -- and sometimes our role.
Today's employees expect more from a career because their personal and professional lives are blurred. Millennials don't have separate selves for work, and they don't shut off at five p.m., so it's understandable that they want more from their careers. But we don't always need to make dramatic career changes or return to school to find our passion. If you take time to learn about your current employer's mission, network with others in different fields and gain new skills outside of work, you may very well land on your passion.
I hope my son ends up with a job and a career he's passionate about. But if he doesn't, he can explore low-commitment ways to find a different one, rather than upending his life and radically changing course. Unless, of course, he ends up as a leader of a robot army. In that case, I hope he just quits.