ASK AMY: How can I pursue my career passion if I don’t even know what my passion is?

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Amy Bandolik is TheCareerProject.org’s career expert.

 

Dear Amy,

How can I pursue my career passion if i don’t even know what my passion is? I sit rack my brain for answers but nothing comes.

-Passionless in Poughkeepsie

 

Dear Passionless,

The worst thing you can do (which I’m sure you’ve already figured out) is to rack your brain to try to find the answers. The answers are, unfortunately, not in there. The answers are in the doing.

You must experience a certain career, hobby, subject area or task to truly know if you like it. There is no way to imagine a new career in your head and decide if it is right for you, without testing it out. You must try it on for size. Here’s a quick example…

What is you favorite flavor of ice cream? Think about it. My favorite flavor is Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby. How do I know this, you ask? Well, through painstaking efforts of testing them all! The only way we know if we are passionate about something, be it ice cream or a career, is to taste it and test it out.

Now, maybe you suspect you don’t like mint ice cream because you have tried other things that are minty and you don’t like those either. In that case, you can safely rule mint chip out of the equation. It is the same with careers. Use your instincts to rule out careers you think you might not like. If you are squeamish and hate blood, maybe becoming a doctor is not for you. Then again, there are many aspects to medicine, so you’d want to explore one that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. I suggest writing a long list of 20 things you like to do or 20 careers you think might be pleasurable for you. Then, my advice is to go blindly forward. Do not analyze each one in your head. Instead, engage in a practical experience with each of the 20 items. How do you have an experience with each, you ask? Here’s how:

1. Job Shadowing: A form of experiential education where you participate in a period of observation to learn more about a career.  Typically, shadowing experiences are conducted over a few hours.

2. Informational Interviewing: A chance to Interview a professional working in the area of career interest to learn more about the career.  The interview may take place via phone or email, as well as in person.

3. Volunteer work: An excellent form of experiential education to clarify career goals as well as gain practical experience for your resume.

4. Internship: A form of experiential education where you may work within a field for a period of training to gain practical experience in your field of study.

It’s not that you are passionless. It’s just that you haven’t found your passion. It may be buried deep inside you. Through the process of elimination and through exploration you will uncover and discover what makes you tick. My advice is to stay out of your head and follow your gut. Try things you have always been curious about and try things you never imagined yourself doing. After a little while, trust me, you will discover that there are many things you love to do. This trial and error method, while time consuming, will help you find your passion much more quickly than mulling it over and over in your head. And if you need practice discovering your likes and dislikes, try it with ice cream first. And have fun. After all, finding your passion should be just that!

 

Wishing you all the best,

Amy

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