We’ve all heard the advice to follow our dreams and do what we’re passionate about, but if you have a mortgage and a family, it’s not so easy. Even if you’re working toward career freedom in a few years, what can you do now to add passion and go from drudge job to dream job?
The answer: start learning something new. Right now.
A recent Inc. article points out that passion pushes you to learn and excel, but it works both ways. Learning and improving your skills can also bring out your latent passion for work. According to positive psychology expert Vanessa King, “Learning can help us build confidence and a sense of self-efficacy. It can also be a way of connecting with others, too.”
The first step is to open your eyes and find all the opportunities to learn and grow around you. Here are some places to look:
Become a mentor.
There are few activities more rewarding than coaching or mentoring others, and the mentors learn at least as much as the mentees. You can coach less experienced colleagues, people who want to develop skills you have, or interns.
If your company doesn’t have a mentoring program, set one up. Or get an internship going. It’s a great project to sink your teeth into, and it benefits the company as a whole.
[Here’s an article about building mentor relationships.]
Learn a new skill.
What abilities could you develop that might open up new career possibilities for you? Public speaking? Writing? Negotiating?
Don’t limit yourself. Think about the talents of your most admired colleagues. Would you like to acquire some of those skills?
If the idea makes you uncomfortable, then go for it. Stepping a bit outside your comfort zone will focus your attention and create that great sense of engagement or “flow” that comes with doing something you love.
You can take classes to get started, but look for other ways to learn as well. For example, ask a manager or colleague to help you out. Volunteer for new responsibilities that will force you to try new things. If you want to be a better writer, for instance, contribute to the company blog. You’ll get exposure while pursuing an engaging new goal.
Build your next career.
Start developing skills for your long-term goals. Do you want to run your own company eventually? See if you can learn more about accounting or sales from your current workplace. Meet people in these areas and ask them about their work and experience. Or offer to take over monthly budgeting from your boss. It may take some extra time, but you’ll be building the abilities that take you where you want to go.
Do you want to manage people? Volunteer to lead the holiday party committee or organize the annual blood drive. You’ll learn about leading a team, communication, organization, and accountability. You’ll show your colleagues and yourself what you’re capable of and get an extra dose of satisfaction.
Find a problem to solve.
Humans love to solve problems. Not huge ones, like world hunger, but small ones like a better onboarding system for new employees.
Look for inefficiencies you can fix or support materials you can create. Could the company use a more robust training program or a more capable customer management system?
Think you’re too old to learn new tricks?
Think again. Science has shown us that the brain is incredibly plastic. Not only can you learn at any age; your brain is designed to keep learning your entire life. And there’s growing evidence that continued learning keeps you sharper as you age.
[Here’s an article on how to improve your learning success with action.]
Regardless of where you are in your career, if you’re feeling less than motivated by your job, switch into learning mode and draw on your natural inclination toward new concepts and goals. You’ll turn a typical day of drudge into dream days of improvement and satisfaction.