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May 28, 2014 at 1:00 AM

To find your career passion, give yourself a personal time-out

Finding a job you’re passionate about isn’t always easy. Life goes by quickly, and before you know it, you may find yourself stuck in a not-so-great job, working for a not-so-great boss and wondering how you got there. If this happens, try taking a time-out from the chaos of life for some personal reflection.

Shortly after I graduated from college, I struggled to figure out what kind of work I wanted to do for my long-term career. One evening, my sister took me out to dinner and handed me a wrapped box with a bow on top. “What’s this?” I asked.

“Just a little something I saw and I thought of you,” she said. When I unwrapped the gift, I found a picture in a frame with the caption, “Find your passion.”

I thanked my sister and then sighed: “But that’s exactly my problem. I can’t seem to figure out my passion at work.”

“Maybe you’re trying too hard,” she replied. “Sometimes you just have to take a step back, relax and try to see the bigger picture. Stop worrying about finding another job and start thinking about what makes you happy and uncovering the things you’re great at doing.”

My sister had a good point. It’s easy to get so caught up in the details of work that misery becomes overwhelming and ends up being the focus. When that happens, there’s a tendency to look for a new job. But jumping from one job to another can often cause even more heartache (and headache) — especially if it’s from one ill-fitting job to another.

I took my sister’s advice and took a personal time-out. The next weekend, I went for a relaxing walk on the beach. I sat in the sand, pulled a notepad and pen out of my bag, and began answering these questions:

  • What makes me happy?
  • What are my core values in life?
  • What’s my definition of success?
  • What things am I good at?

Answering these questions confirmed to me that I was in the wrong job, and led me to explore other job options. That exploration led to a career I loved in marketing and then into other areas of business. For me, finding my career passion was as much about learning to understand myself as it was about finding a job that was a better fit.

Being successful at whatever job you choose means taking the time to find your passion. If you’re passionate about your work, it will come across to everyone around you and help you fill your life with meaning.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Your Career, Your Way! Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: career change, finding your passion, motivation, stress

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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