Your Career is a Treasure Hunt

Your Career is like a Treasure Hunt, except you are not the person seeking the ultimate prize. You are writing the map

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I’ve worked as in-house recruiter in the hospitality industry, as an operation manager in the airport and as a Trainer in the social services.

I do well in roles but get bored and want always to try something different. The problem is, at 45, I haven’t found my true calling. I’ve taken career tests and talked to counsellors but the results point in different directions.

The truth is that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for in my next job. I don’t want to keep switching roles. Do I keep searching for a job I love, or stick with my current job even though I don’t appreciate it?

Conventional career wisdom is often “follow your passion”.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know what their passion is and the whole process stops before it starts.

Finding one’s passion can be a complicated path and cannot be determined in the abstract — experience is a mandatory part of the process.

Research has shown that the people who most enjoy what they do are those who become good at it over time.

Self-determination theory (SDT) tells us that motivation in the workplace is determined by:

Autonomy (the feeling that you have control over your day and that your actions are important).

Competence (the feeling that you are good at what you do).

Relatedness (the feeling of connection to other people).

Skill is the driver of these three and it becomes a virtuous circle — the higher the skill level, the higher the levels of autonomy, competence and relatedness.

Reflect on the jobs you have had and identify the skills required in each. Identify the skills that, when exercised, put you in “the zone” — you were fully absorbed and focused, time stood still and you were energized. Identify roles that require those skills and leverage your skills to get those jobs.

Dive into the virtuous circle and feel your passion grow. In addiction to this, you don’t need to feel anxious if you haven’t found your passion — you can find a way to be passionate about what you are doing instead.

Infact having a passion and alignment to your work is something that can make a large impact in your life, your wellness and your sense of purpose. If you have held positions in dynamic roles and gained valuable skills, while you haven’t yet felt aligned completely with any role, take some time to reflect on your highlights from each position, and also identify your areas of least interest.

Then look for highlights in common, and challenge yourself to make these areas a focus in your existing company or role. Look for an internal transfer, or ask for more responsibility. You may find a job you love by staying with an organization that you align with, in terms of values. While there will be challenges posed by tasks or projects you may not always like, look at these as growth opportunities in which to channel your areas of interest.

There is great experience gained when you are able to experience change within a company you feel attached to, and also great connections with your co-workers.

Finally when we talk about “meaningful work,” what do we actually mean? Negotiating peace treaties, growing food, making spectacular amounts of money.

All of these examples can be framed as meaningful, depending on who is doing the framing, and what it is they truly want.

Meaning isn’t something to be found, and it can’t be uncovered by heartfelt commitment, long hours, and self-sacrifice.

Meaning is something we make.

Accepting that fact can transform what you choose to do with your life, but it can also transform the way you feel about what it is you already do.

Your career is a treasure hunt, except you are not the person seeking the ultimate prize. You are writing the map.

So, look at your professional goals as a place you pass through at a certain time on the way to somewhere else rather than as a destination.

Career isn’t really a destination, because you’ll never get there.

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