The reality is that everyone can find their best-fit career. No one is exempt. The other reality is that it takes a ton of intentionality, reflection, and effort. Those three things are often in short supply.
I’ve been binge-listening to Dave Ramsey lately and I love the concept that you can’t take a shortcut to wealth. There’s one path and it requires consistency, diligence, and patience. What does it take? Paying off debt, saving for the future, and being self-disciplined.
Why would career be in different?
What does discovering career take? Knowing your values, strengths, and ideal environments for thriving.
Drumming up opportunities for yourself through building your network and exploring potential options.
Improving your brand. Building a platform. Connecting with influencers. Seeking feedback. Refining job-search tools.
This career-search stuff takes actual work.
But, just like with money, a consistent investment over time always pays off.
Amateurs dabble in their passion, do it on the side, and never fully commit. The reasons are many, and I won’t cover them here.
Suffice it to say, amateurs aren’t professionals. Professionals play to win. They do their passion full up and are fully committed. They get results.
Your problem may be that you have passions that you aren’t addressing as a professional would.
One way to figure out which one you are is to take this short self-assessment:
1. Do you “clock in” to your work and remove distractions?
2. Do you prioritize the tasks that will lead to specific, measurable outcomes?
3. Do you have business cards, a Web site, or some other platform to connect what you do to the people you do it for?
4. Do you talk about your work like a hobby or like a job?
5. Do you talk about your work at all?
6. Do you feel guilty when you don’t do your work?
Professionals would say yes, yes, yes, job, yes, yes. Amateurs, just the opposite.
The gap between where you are now and where you want to be may be as simple as getting your mind right about which one you are.
But money is rarely a great leader. What does this mean? It means don’t set out to do something just for the money.
I was watching a documentary last night called “The Men Who Built America.” It’s a great show on the History Channel about the moguls who plucked the U.S. from a war-torn state in the late 1800’s and rocket-launched it into the future by building railroads, drilling for oil, and building with steel.
In the middle of the show, a quote stood out that went something like this:
“True entrepreneurs don’t ever set out to make money. They set out to win. And money follows winning.”
If you add value in a way that helps others WIN, money will follow. This made me think, what do I want to help people win at? No brainer — career. If you love what you do for a living, I win, because that’s what I was put on this earth to help people figure out how to do. In fact, we all win if you love what you do because your value-add is enhanced.
So who do you want to help win? Your organization? Your peer group? What do you want to help them win at?
The answer may be a backdoor way to discovering your passion.
What would you do if you had a million in the bank and no one had expectations of you? How would you spend your days? What would your contribution be?
Most importantly, why aren’t you doing it now?
I’ve definitely swung on the pendulum from “we should do something we love but let’s be reasonable” to “forget reasonable — find your passion and do it!” These days I’m leaning toward the latter.
I met with someone the other day who said that if money were no object, she had no expectations on her, and the world revolved around her she would be a photographer for a non-profit that delivers water to developing countries. This isn’t what she’s doing now and I asked her why not.
“How would I make a living doing that? Plus, how do I even get there? And, I have no training.”
All legitimate questions, but not insurmountable. Someone’s making a living doing it (at least 136,000 people a year according to the BLS). The fact is, we often discount our passions because we’re not sure how we could get paid to do it when there are often tons of people getting paid to do it, we just don’t believe we can be one of them (or we don’t care enough to pursue it). And, the path is never clear because there is no one path. Training is good, but especially if it’s foundation is talent. I asked if she had natural talent in photography.
“Sure, my dad’s friend is a professional photographer in D.C. and he’s critiqued my photos several times and encouraged me to take it more seriously. He says I seem to have an eye for it.”
So you’ve potentially got natural talent, other people have told you you’re good at it, but you’re still not doing it? WHY?
I didn’t need to ask. The answer is always fear.
As I told her, and I’m telling you right now, I’m not saying you should quit your job today and pursue your passion. But I also don’t think you should ignore it. Explore it on the side but take it seriously. You’ll likely find one of two things:
The fact is, your passion will never go away. It won’t leave you alone. It begs to be acknowledged, developed, and shared. Not only that, but we need you to follow it because what we may be getting in the marketplace may be an average product. We need you with all of your talent to up the ante — raise the bar.
Talent drives innovation and creativity and improves the offerings for the rest of us to take advantage of.
So what are you waiting for?
What do you give a kid for his birthday? What he wants. You look at his list and give him something he wants. When you do the opposite, you create bad memories.
“Oh, you want a Lego set? Here’s a science kit instead. A video game? How about a book. Trust me, you’ll enjoy this more.”
Sounds crazy, right? And yet we do this very thing every time we convince someone that what we are giving them is exactly what they need. Sometimes we’re right, often we’re not.
This happens in business, coaching, consulting, sales, marketing, medicine, education — you name it.
There’s an easier way.
Ask your constituents what they want or need and then give it to them. I was working with a coaching client recently who wasn’t sure how his service was going to land. I asked him how he knew it would work.
He felt like it was the right thing for them.
There’s a better way.
I challenged him to reach out to his target audience and ask them what they wanted and then give it to them. Create a service that meets their needs. You will waste a lot of time trying to convince people that they need something they don’t know they need. Save yourself, and them, the time.
Ask what they want and give it to them.
This is what the journey to landing your best-fit career might look like:
I call it scramble, scramble, stick. You scramble in the first 5-10 years of your career, trying out various jobs and positions, seeking to identify the one that most closely aligns with your best self. You’re nimble and sometimes follow the advice of Harvard professor Deepak Malhotra, “Quit early and quit often.” You job-craft, hustle, volunteer, and add value. You connect, build relationships, and may change jobs (maybe more than a few times — I hold the record at 9 times in 10 years). In fact, if done correctly, you scramble more in the first 10 years of your career than in the next 35. And guess what? That’s totally normal.
As you progress through this process, your jobs and positions get more and more specialized until you find your best fit. You then spend the next decades laser-focused at becoming the best in the world at what you do. Eventually, you hit a tipping point and skyrocket to the top of your industry because you’ve found this principle to be true:
There is always room at the top for those who love what they do.
And the best way to love what you do? Find something that aligns with who you are.
If you feel like you’re job-jumping an inordinate amount, never fear. It’s all part of the process of narrowing in on The Convergence. Now’s the time to scramble. Later is the time to stick.
P.S. You don’t need to leave your current organization to scramble. Turns out your organization likely has many different jobs to try out. Start where you are before looking elsewhere.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
I post here once a week on Tuesdays, every week, at 4:59am. You can also sign up below to have these posts magically air-dropped straight to your inbox.