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Many of my career coaching clients seem to feel lost sometimes if they don’t have a passion for their work, and they feel like there’s something wrong with themselves.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, and with me is my friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice. Our topic today is your career: the pressure to find passion, purpose, and a paycheck. I wrote my first book back in 2015 called “JoyPowered®,” and I wrote it because I was finding so many people who had worked at the same place for many years and were unengaged, unmotivated, and needless to say, not JoyPowered® in their work. Although my own career had not been perfect, I certainly did not stay in a role where I was not finding joy in going to work. I had passion and purpose in my roles, and when I started losing that, I knew it was time for a change. Now, that didn’t always mean I left the company I was with, but took a different role inside of the company, as well. Susan, what about you?
I believe that for the largest chunk of my career, the first 30 plus years, I felt pressure to get a paycheck. That really was my sole focus. And I ended up – and I remember when I first started my first professional job, I was so surprised that I liked what I did. I thought, wow, I didn’t see that coming. Because it wasn’t my intent at all. My intent was to get a paycheck that I hoped I could grow over time to have good benefits so that if I got married and had a family, I could support them. It was just… I was maniacal about that was my focus. Over the years, as I grew in my profession in HR, I found that I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed building relationships, I enjoyed people, I enjoyed making a difference. But I wouldn’t say that I was in search of passion or purpose, I was still focused on paycheck. It wasn’t until I left that corporate job and I really had the freedom to figure out what I want to be when I grow up that I thought, you know, I love HR work. Who knew? And I have a lot of options now. I want to do joyful work. And that has been transformational for me over the last nine years.
That’s excellent. And you did make several position changes with the bank over time. Was that a result of someone asking you or was that a request on your part or both?
Yeah, it was really both. Yes. I would say, like, the first… probably seven or eight years I was asked – well, I made a move from kind of branch operations into HR, which is what I really had my heart set on doing, HR, when I was in college. But after that there was just opportunities. As we kept growing and organizational changes would come along, there were opportunities. So probably the first eight, nine years, I was asked to take on different types of roles and learn different things. And then I really kind of got into a level where if I wanted to make a change, I needed to, you know, speak up for myself and advocate and really compete for significant roles. But yet to say even after that, there were times where I was asked to do jobs that I didn’t always want, but I knew that it was politically correct to say yes. And then when I was in roles that I didn’t really love, I worked really hard to figure out how do I pivot and you get to do something else. So yes, I think was a real combination of both.
Nice. In a recent article by indeed.com, they described purpose in work as the intrinsic sense of fulfillment that employees gain from doing work that is meaningful to them. Purpose can help employees understand why they are carrying out a particular task or project and why this matters to their career and why their career impacts the organization or the industry. When employees believe in the value of their work, it can help them feel motivated, fulfilled, and connected in the workspace.
I think that is so true. I love that the emphasis in the world today is to find what is it that you really care about, what is your purpose. I just think it’s a much healthier way to live than the way I lived, which was chasing that paycheck.
Yeah, I think definitely the younger generations have brought that to us – right? – as they’ve expressed such… much more interest in finding their passion and purpose.
I really applaud it. Yeah.
If you work for a nonprofit, for example, it can be pretty clear what the organization’s purpose is and why you might be passionate about it. But what if your company makes widgets? You might find your passion not in the product, but in growing the people on your team or in creating new jobs in their community. So you have to look differently or seek out unique things that might be your purpose and passion. We might, though, have a passion initially, but then find ourselves out of alignment later. It’s important for us to continue to reflect on our goals and values throughout our career to ensure we are in alignment.
So what can we do to help find purpose in our work? Indeed suggests a number of things. First of all, set realistic expectations. They can help us stay motivated when pursuing goals.
Be willing to accept extra responsibilities. If you are striving to find inspiration, you may need to take on additional roles – maybe mentoring your colleagues or helping with additional projects. This may highlight your value and make you feel purposeful.
Use strategies that make your work more engaging. Purpose can connect to feelings of enjoyment and pleasure. Consider doing things to make your work environment a more pleasant place. Maybe it’s that you want to bring your favorite candle if you’re allowed to burn things in your office, or a plant, or have candy on your desk, or something that you feel makes your… your office space or your workspace more upbeat.
Yeah, I love it. And help those around you. You might find purpose in mentoring, advising, or training your colleagues. This can have a positive impact and also demonstrate teamwork and communication skills. Finding your purpose has been proven to increase engagement and commitment, reduce stress levels, improve workplace relationships, build resilience, and motivate you to take on more learnings and challenges. So lots of important areas there. In a Forbes article entitled “Want to find your purpose at work? Change your perceptions,” they said the most important thing to remember is that you can create your own purpose and meaning at work. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you must find the right role to be fulfilled or that it’s the responsibility of your boss or your company to create purpose for you. Which I think can happen, right? Sometimes we just sit back and we’re waiting for someone else to do this for us. But your work matters and you can foster your purpose and create meaning for yourself. Now about passion. In an article posted on passion.io called “How to Find Your Passion,” they listed four tactics to find a fulfilling pursuit. They said your passion is something that energizes you. Any task, hobby, or activity that makes you excited and want to do more of it is a passion. Tactic one, don’t try and find your passion. Let them find you. Once you’ve identified what parts of your day give you energy, figure out how to make them a bigger part of your life.
Tactic number two, accept that passion is fluid. For some people, the pursuit of a goal is their passion. Once they’ve reached a goal, they lose their passion for it and have to move on.
I tell you, that one it happens to me. I’ve done it many times. I like to get things started and moving, but then when it comes to being in a maintenance role, I’m… it’s not me.
You’re a builder. Yeah.
Tactic number three, allow yourself to be passionate to find your passion. You need to be open to it coming from any source and your mindset is the key. Once we have this mindset, living it is the key.
Tactic number four, be flexible in how you approach. You might find that some passions can’t be turned into careers. They could just be hobbies. What’s important is that you’re always doing something that gives you energy in some component of your life.
Yeah, I like that one. We’ve invited a guest today who not only loves to work with her purpose and passion, but she helps others find theirs as well. Peggy Hogan is the Vice President of Talent Services at Purple Ink and a co-author with Susan and I of “The JoyPowered® Team.” Much of Peggy’s experiences have been in full lifecycle recruiting. Peggy is a SHRM-SCP, a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, a Certified Professional Resume Writer, a Certified Professional Career Coach, and a certified Strong Interest Inventory Interpreter. She’s a certified diversity and inclusion recruiter and a member of SHRM and IndySHRM. Sounds like she has all the credentials you would want for someone to help you find your purpose and passion.
Absolutely. And I also think we should certify her as the number one guest that has been with us most frequently on The JoyPowered® Workspace. Yeah, we get so many requests to have Peggy back. So very, very glad she’s here today.
Nice. Peggy, thanks for joining us today.
Thanks for having me.
Why do you feel like there is pressure for people to find a career that they are passionate about, and why is that a problem?
Well, when I got out of college, JoDee, I just wanted a job that had a decent salary and kind of seemed like a good place to work. But we weren’t really talking about culture, professional development, you know, mission, flexible schedules, remote work, or even engagement. And I’m not downplaying the importance of those attributes. But we’ve added a lot to the list of must haves, for sure. And I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, you know, “find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” which sounds amazing. But we’ve really celebrated the idea of finding passion in our work, so everyone thinks that they have to have it. Our emerging workforce really feels like they have to have it and they want it in their first job. I think it’s a problem because it creates a lot of anxiety that we have to get it right the first time, and it can set us up for failure if we’re not finding it. I know a lot of the college kids will compare themselves to others who maybe seem like they’ve got it all figured out, and then it can damage their own self-confidence, too. Many of my career coaching clients seem to feel lost sometimes if they don’t have a passion for their work, and they feel like there’s something wrong with themselves.
You know, that is so interesting, Peggy. I was thinking about my husband, who always felt that he needed to have a job that he was really passionate about, a job he loved. And I remember meeting him when we were in high school and I’m like, “Why do you need a job that you love? Don’t you need a job that pays good money?” I did not understand it at all. And then I remember early in our marriage, he’d been complaining about work. I said, “that’s why they call it work.” I get it. And today’s world is so different. And I can understand if someone thinks, wow, everybody else loves what they do. What’s wrong with me? And I think that’s a real – could be a mental health issue for people. So thanks for bringing that up.
Yeah. And it can really take a while to hone in on what makes us tick, too, and how we’re going to find that in work. So yeah, I think… I think it can be really detrimental.
Yeah. So Peggy, if someone does have a passion, why might it be a bad idea for them to pursue it professionally?
I actually read this article in Forbes, because I hadn’t thought about it myself from that perspective, but this article is based on three Stanford researchers’ findings that the “follow your passion” advice can actually be detrimental to your success. And I’ll just kind of go through the list of the things that they cited. But one is it assumes we will only have one passion in life, and that passions don’t change. And that can be very limiting, to kind of select one passion, as it leaves zero space for others to be uncovered. It also gives the impression that passion should come with ease, very organically, or that this magical dream job is kind of waiting in the wings when passions really should be developed in their own right and it’s not something we should be chasing after necessarily. And I think this is a pretty basic one, but number three is just because you have a passion for something, it really doesn’t mean that you’re good at it. So we have to certainly be cognizant of where our skills lie or maybe skills that can be developed. Fourth reason is once you shift your life’s passion into a job, it can become just that – kind of a task that you have to do. You might actually lose enthusiasm for that job. And then the fifth one is – and Susan, you kind of alluded to this a little bit, but – it’s a privilege, a privileged message, really, that’s not afforded to all. For most of our workforce, money really drives the profession that you choose until you can at least establish yourself enough to maybe make other decisions. So you might at one phase in your life have to focus on what’s valuable in that moment, like remote work, or maybe it’s flexible hours. But hopefully, if you’re doing that, you can maybe make room for your passions on the side.
That’s good advice. How can someone learn about careers that might be a good fit for them?
Well, I love that you ask about “learn,” because it is not something we’re born with. You know, we tend to know what our parents did, our neighbors, you know, they’re doctors, teachers, etc. So we really do have to go on a journey of discovery and be curious. Talk to people, professors, a career coach, the Career Center at college, neighbors, friends, anyone you meet who might be able to shed light on what they do. Also, there are some tools out there. The Department of Labor has a website called ONetOnline.org, and that website offers just a plethora of information really about any job title. You can see what the forecast is for that, job requirements, salary information, kind of the… the knowledge, skills, and abilities required, and descriptions of the day-to-day tasks. So that’s… that can be a really great resource. There also are assessments, such as the Strong Interest Inventory, and that assessment will compare your likes and dislikes to people who are happy in their careers, and it can make suggestions for jobs or even basic areas of interest for you to explore. It is important to have someone who’s certified in that tool to interpret the results and coach you on how to apply them. You know, it may say something like “be a chef,” and you might think “I don’t want to work weekends and nights,” or it may say “be a therapist,” and you might think, “well, I can’t really afford to go back to school.” So it’s important to kind of look at the underlying likes and dislikes and try to figure out your next step. And then one thing I kind of stumbled upon this past year is Marcus Buckingham, his book that’s called “Love and Work,” and in that book, he really gives you ideas on how to discern what your… what you really love doing.
So Peggy, in Marcus Buckingham’s book, “Love and Work,” can you share some of the ideas and research that he did that might help people, our listeners, today on their career journey?
Well, Marcus is a researcher on human productivity, and he was one of the founders or really helped to develop StrengthsFinder, which we now know as CliftonStrengths. He talks about the research on job satisfaction and that while company culture, manager, and other things are important, the single most important factor is whether we enjoy the daily tasks that we do, so it’s really important to hone in on what those are. He mentions this concept of “red threads,” and discovering those red threads along your career journey. So these would be the tasks that you look forward to, the tasks that you get lost in and time really slips away. The “brown threads” are the things we have to do, but maybe we don’t love doing them. And all jobs, by the way, have brown threads. So one tool that he shares that you could do is create a list of loves and loathes. So he suggests kind of drawing a line down the middle of your paper, carrying this with you for a week or so, and while you’re at work or play, start to write down what you procrastinated on, what you ran to, what people come to you for, what energizes you, and what drains you. And your job is to really, over time, figure out how to weave more red threads into your career. So isn’t necessarily going to be in your first job. So along the journey, you start kind of noting what these red threads are, and hopefully you can kind of weave together a tapestry that, as you go on in your career, it has more red threads than brown.
I just keep envisioning somebody right now at work that’s kind of building a brown blanket because they’re so unhappy with all the things they’re doing, or somebody who’s loving what they’re doing and they’re actually building a red blanket.
I love that, and I love the visualization of that.
Yeah. And I think for me, the thing is that we’re gonna have those things that we don’t love doing and that don’t really play to our strengths. But we can’t expect to have it all at once because it is a journey and we’re gonna grow and change, and just… we have to have a little bit of patience. I mean, I don’t want anyone, you know, being suffocated by a brown blanket on any day, so if you’re in a bad job that is just, you know, killing you, of course, you gotta make a change. But sometimes it is okay to just have a job, like you said, Susan, and, you know, do what you need to do in that moment with the goal of having that red… that red blanket down the road.
Great, great advice.
When you started your career, how intentional were you about finding joy or passion in your work, and if it wasn’t intentional, where did you find it?
Well, you know, I – as I said in the beginning, I really just wanted a decent job in a nice place with a stable company, and so I think I knew that I would work with people and just looked for opportunities. We had a great internal job posting system. So I kind of had in my head, “I’m gonna go for something either in marketing or HR,” and then just continued along that path. You do… I think you do have to look at what do people come to you for? Where do you shine? And those things tend to energize you. So I probably was kind of doing this subconsciously, along the way.
That’s great. So Peggy, how can our listeners reach you if they want to talk more about career exploration and finding their passion and not putting so much pressure on themselves along their career journey?
They could email me at Peggy at Purple Ink with a K llc dot com and I’d be happy to chat.
Well, thanks so much for joining us, Peggy. I think you gave, at least for me, a really different line of thought around this joy and passion in your work. So.
JoDee, we have a listener question today. “What are the best forms of virtual communication?”
Well, we just had a podcast on making remote work work, and we talked about a lot of different kinds of virtual communication from Zoom, Teams, instant messaging, texting, project management tools like Clickup or Trello. I think, you know, I don’t know that I could say which one is the best one per se, because I think there’s lots of options out there and lots of different price ranges for them. But I think what’s most important is that your team is on the same page with them when you’re using them, right? Even for Zoom, to ask people to turn their cameras on so you can visibly see people and thinking about everyone being on Zoom at their own computer versus trying to have a group together and then Zoom in a few others, too, right? But it’s finding one that works for you and your team, is easy to learn so people can get up to speed, and that they feel comfortable using it.
I totally agree.
It’s time for in the news. New SHRM research shows that 16% of US workers identify as having one or more invisible disabilities. Susan, I know this is a passion of yours, to focus on employees with disabilities.
It sure is.
But nearly half of those with an invisible disability have not disclosed it to their employer.
And I totally get that. I think people worry that once they share something, that people will start to label them a certain way or treat them differently.
34% of undisclosed employees believe coworkers would scrutinize their behavior if they identified.
Wow. And 31% of them say their coworkers would think they couldn’t fulfill their work responsibilities if they knew.
And finally, those who have disclosed say they are two to three times more likely to experience workplace incivility. That breaks my heart.
That does. That’s horrible.
Yeah, I think the lesson for us is, as employers and HR professionals, that we really need to help provide an environment where people feel safe to bring their authentic selves to work, whether it’s an invisible disability or anything else unique about them. And we can’t – even though I think that probably all our listeners I’m preaching to the choir, we embrace it, we have to recognize that not all the employees in our workspace will embrace it the way we want them to, so we gotta keep it at the forefront of our discussions.
Right. Well, thanks for listening today and make it a JoyPowered® day.
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