Getting started with a fulfilling and life affirming career is not as straightforward as it seems. Some people have a calling or know from early on exactly what they want to do with their lives but for others it is much more complex. Regularly, people are a told to “follow your passions” but is it really as simple as that?
Research at Stanford and Yale-NUS College examined specific theories in relation to our passions, specifically fixed theory (our passions are inherent and hidden within us) and growth theory (passions are developed and nurtured over time). The research found that those who tested positive as being fixed theory inclined developed less interest in media linked to their designated interest and the lead researcher on the project explained:
“Telling people to find their passion could suggest that it’s within you just waiting to be revealed. Telling people to follow their passion suggests passion will do the lion’s share of the work for you. A growth mindset makes people more open to new and different interests and sustains those interests when pursuing them becomes difficult.”
This is an interesting concept and allows us to re-examine our interests and look more closely at ways to find the ideal career direction based on our passions. It is normal not to know what you plan to do as a career when young and many people still don’t know many years late, so instead of focusing on a set career, why not consider your interests and where they can lead you. Here are some considerations:
1. Recognising your “Flow” States
Flow State is a concept devised by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and is more commonly described as “being in the zone”. Flow state is the feeling of being fully immersed and engaged in an activity. This feeling is also accompanied by happiness and enjoyment throughout the process and on completion. Recognising the activities which lead to Flow state for you allows you to find those things which really drive you. They could be ideal activities to consider in your future career.
2. Focus on a Growth Approach
As already mentioned, growth theory looks at how passions are developed and nurtured over time and a growth mindset allows you to examine your passions more closely. This kind of mindset means you are more open to new experiences and possibilities and not tied down in a single direction. A growth approach allows you to relish and enjoy new challenges and once you combine this approach with your Flow states, you may find further opportunities to combine your skillset with the positive outlook you’ve developed.
3. Assess your Skills
You may have an idea for a career you’re interested in, or you may have a set of skills you want to put into practice. You may even have both. You should look at your skills to see where they fit and how you might be able to use them. Our skills split into two loose groups:
– Technical/professional skills – the skills you have learned and developed throughout your education and training. They will include any formal qualifications but also short courses and technical skills you may have developed through work experience.
– Personal skills: the skills which make you stand out and are required to be good at a job. Your individual strengths, values and qualities should be considered here.
4. Put your Skills into Action
If your skillset fits a particular career path or you have a career which really calls to you then it’s worth looking at ways to make it reality. This could be enrolling on training courses, finding a relevant apprenticeship or even undertaking voluntary or part-time work to boost your experience. A career which allows you to utilise your Flow state and really is your passion is worth the extra work.
As your career progresses you may find new passions develop and new interest areas become more important. The benefit of having a growth approach to your working life is that you can always be flexible and take your career in a new direction whilst still indulging in your passions.