Common wisdom often tells you to pursue your passion, and the money will follow. While it’s nice to think that the things that make us happy would also provide a steady paycheck, part of becoming an adult is realizing that your true passions may not align with your career. If you only focus on following your passion at work, you may limit your opportunities to gain the competence that can help you succeed in multiple areas of life.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & REGULAR podcast and keep reading for some thoughts on how developing skills can serve you better than following your passion.
Instead of being passionate, be curious
Passion sounds like an important attribute to have in the workplace and is often the word job candidates use to signal that they’re enthusiastic and willing to go the extra mile. While many people will say what they need to to get the job, it’s important to note that actually turning your passion into your work leaves behind those who haven’t found their passion yet or can’t make money from it, leaving them despairing of ever finding meaning in their work.
Instead of focusing on passion in the workplace, get curious about the world around you. You might not currently be passionate about learning how to code or setting up accounting or organizational systems, for example, but being interested in learning new things can give you a broader knowledge base, leading you to a new job or a new way to monetize existing skills.
Focusing on your interests is a good first step, but it’s also important to bring a practical side to your curiosity, at least as it relates to your work life. While hobbies are important, developing skills that will further your career may take a bit more effort to discover. Consider the following as you look to bring more curiosity into your work life.
Find what you’re good at
Many people often have a hard time figuring out what interests them or what they’d like to dig into deeper. We focus on learning the material presented to us in school, but many people don’t consciously learn a new skill after leaving the classroom.
An excellent place to start is to think about what interested you when you were a kid. Is there anything you liked to do as a child that you still enjoy doing now? You might not want to do it all the time or be the best at it, but finding what intrigued you in your past can be a good starting place for discovering what you’re interested in now.
Once you have a few ideas or subjects that interest you, spend some time with your journal and consider the following questions:
- What’s your level of interest in this subject?
- Is this skill needed in your current work environment for a career goal you’re working towards or just in general?
- Do you know someone who currently has this skill and would be willing to mentor you?
It’s also essential to consider how you learn best and what kinds of goals you’re trying to achieve. If you want to change careers or fields entirely, you might need to go back to school for a formal degree, but if you want to focus on your soft skills such as leadership or improving your communication skills, you can probably find a few online courses or a mentor to help guide you.
The more you practice a skill, the better you get at it. Learning something new not only helps keep your brain active and engaged but can also have a positive effect on other parts of your life. For instance, if you are working on your communication skills, you may find that not only are your co-workers easier to get along with, but your personal relationships also start to improve.
Not only will your competency continue to grow as you practice, but your new abilities can also help you gain confidence. When you’re making progress on the specific skill you’re focused on (i.e., coding, communication, writing, etc.), you’re also teaching your brain how to learn something new and creating internal structures that can help you learn a variety of future subjects, both in and out of the workplace.
Passion develops alongside skill
A funny thing tends to happen when you put time and effort into learning something—passion often appears unexpectedly. As you become more competent at a new skill and dive deeper into the nuances, you’ll (hopefully) find that you enjoy working on it and might even become passionate about that subject.
Passion can often be fleeting, especially at work, where pressure and fatigue can drain any passion you once felt and leave you feeling resentful and unsure of the next step. Being curious and putting effort into mastering tasks and challenges, even if you can’t use them in your current position, can help you remain energetic and interested in the wider world.
Remember that focusing on passion alone might keep you going for a short time, but focusing on your skill set will most likely serve you better in the long run.