A Realistic Guide to Finding a Career You Love
Start with What Interests You
There’s a common trope that young people hear when starting their careers. It goes something like “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. This useless piece of wisdom is usually followed closely by “So what do you want to do with the rest of your life?” No pressure.
A seemingly harmless question that left me, and many others, desperate to find the answer. Everyone but me seemed to have a plan. It took 4 years of college and 5 years in the workforce to realize that finding a meaningful career isn’t suddenly uncovered like a new favorite flavor of ice-cream or a scratch-off lotto ticket.
It’s a journey of self-discovery. That journey takes work, but here’s a couple tips I’ve learned along the way.
Start with What Interests You
You will probably not love your first job. First jobs usually suck. That’s why they hired you. Much like a relationship, you have no idea whether or not this particular thing will work out for you. Expecting to fall in love on the first date or first day on the job is unrealistic, not to mention the immense pressure it puts on everyone. Apologies Stacy from 1st grade.
A better approach is to simply try out what interests you. Youth provides you the luxury of time to experiment and find your niche. Some things won’t work out, but that is simply the world telling you to go in a different direction. Learning you hate something is fine.
I’ve had many jobs before landing in media and entertainment, but I have always bent toward the pursuit of my personal interests. I studied politics and power structures, so I volunteered for a politic campaign. I caught the travel bug, so I taught English which gave me the freedom to explore while supporting me financially.
I wanted to party on the cheap in Spain, so I became a club promoter (aside: interests don’t always have to be noble).
My final year of university, the prospect of choosing a career path was an impossible task. It took hundreds of informational interviews to narrow my focus. The final decision came from the simple fact that the people and business of media interested me most. The people were vibrant and personable while the business was big and rapidly changing.
The mindset of pursuing interests is both productive and liberating. You need not immediately find love in a career. Cultivate interest by surrounding yourself with people, places, and things you gravitate to. By pursuing your interests, you uncover your strengths while finding things you enjoy along the way. No pressure.
Foster a Love of Learning
I did not enjoy my first job in entertainment. Bright and eager, my interest in becoming a talent agent quickly dissolved when I realized that I shared few interests with talent agents and did not gel with the culture. Apologies agents and CFO of WME.
However, despite not finding much joy in my first career stop, I did try to learn as much as possible. You are always in a position to learn, even from situations you dislike.
So while I looked for my next job, I took the opportunity to work on several desks and talk to as many people as I could. Despite it not being the right place for you, there is value in any organization you join. Don’t take it for granted. You are being paid to learn.
At WME, I learned the language of the business, specializations within entertainment, the buyers and sellers in the industry, media dollar value, and that I wanted creativity to be a major part of my career. Those lessons led to my next job at a branded entertainment agency.
There I discovered marketing as a career path, found I excelled at client service, and learned to love research. It brought me closer to my natural, personal talents, cultivated from hours pouring over the business of entertainment and media.
Curiosity is a powerful human motivator. Embrace it. Any experience, both good and bad, is an opportunity to understand where your talent and interests lie. A job mismatch isn’t a failure. It’s an opportunity to grow.
Identify What Your Strengths Are
You will not be good at everything. But following your interests is a great way to discover and develop the natural talents you possess. Career satisfaction is all about finding that special place between things that interest you and pursuits you’ve mastered.
For example, I loved soccer and played the beautiful game for almost 18 years. Despite my immense love of the sport, I was never good enough to make it a career. I didn’t have any natural aptitude nor the discipline to put in the hours needed to master it. So while it remains an interest, it won’t ever be a career. Apologies dad and Coach G.
As you learn more about your interests, you’ll discover natural aptitudes for one interest or another. Pursue those interests doggedly. Plow enough hours into those interests and aptitudes and you’ll find mastery.
Mastering your interests is extremely satisfying. Eat at any Michelin Star restaurant and tell me your not satisfied by what the chef has put in front of you. Messi dribbling through defenders to neatly put the ball in the back of a net is mesmerizing. There’s an special elegance to a balanced, well-structured, and clean financial plan.
What’s the best part of finding a career you love? Mastered interests are valuable.
Not only is mastery of your interests incredibly satisfying, but people are willing to pay for them. Bill Gates started out by founding the computer club in his high school. Passion and competence behind what you do will come across in any field. That’s making the iPhone. Timing the stock market. Nailing the sails pitch.
A career journey is a lifelong pursuit with twists and turns along the way. However, these three things — pursuit of interests, love of learning, and identifying strengths — offer a personal map to navigate toward a career you love. I have built a career in entertainment, media, and marketing.
There will always be more to learn, new interests to pursue, and skills to master. I’m getting paid to master what interests me. If you do the same, I promise you’ll love what you do.
Originally published on medium.