How to Find Your Professional Passion and Purpose
Why should you find your professional passion and purpose?
We all have a finite amount of time on this earth. For some, having a job is simply a means to an end – they work to live, not live to work – but many people find themselves questioning the meaning behind the work that they do and wonder if they can find more fulfillment. Although studies show that more people are grateful for their jobs now than before the COVID-19 pandemic, they still feel the desire to live their professional lives with greater passion and to contribute to something greater than themselves. Do you dread Monday mornings, watch the clock during your workday, or bounce from job to job? If so, you owe it to yourself to pause and take time to explore what brings you joy. Tapping into your passion may lead you to discover your true purpose and the career path that energizes you. Carpe diem!
Questions to ask yourself to discover your professional passion and purpose:
- What are your strengths? Try to think of these in terms of strengths that bring you happiness when you have an opportunity to utilize them. For instance, you might be a whiz at building complicated spreadsheets, but if you loathe doing them, they aren’t going to fulfill your passion and purpose. If you struggle to think of your exceptional skills and traits, try asking a mentor, colleague, friend, or family member.
- Who do you most want to help? It might be surprising, but in Mark Zuckerberg’s 2017 Harvard commencement address, he noted that finding your professional purpose isn’t actually about you; it’s ultimately about being “part of something bigger than ourselves” and the contributions we can make. Be as specific as possible when answering this question. Do you want to help communities be more inclusive with their infrastructure projects? Do you want to help introduce children to STEM careers? Knowing who you want to help can reveal the passions and motivators that can lead to your purpose.
- What interests would you like to explore? Take some time to think through the things you enjoyed doing as a child or young adult, but also think about things you’ve always wanted to try but never got around to. If you aren’t sure where to start, investigate classes, workshops, or trainings (virtual or in-person), or create a Pinterest account and start a vision board. Give yourself the freedom to dabble and experiment. Even if the activities you explore don’t lead to a professional passion, it’s important to find activities outside of work that are rewarding, too.
- What does success mean to you? For a lot of people, money and pleasing others are strong motivators when selecting a career. If your mom always wanted you to become a nurse because it’s a respectable career with a high earning potential, it’s natural to feel pressure to become a nurse. But what if, deep down, nursing just isn’t your passion or fulfilling your purpose? Considering how you’ll pay your bills is important, but it isn’t the only measurement of success. It’s up to you to define what success means to you, and it can come in many shapes and forms outside of a paycheck and others’ approval. Helping others, working on meaningful and interesting projects, being able to fully live your values, and enjoying deep job satisfaction are all ways of measuring success.
Steps to uncover your professional passion and purpose:
- Do research. The fact that you’re reading this article means that you’re well under way with step 1! You don’t want to fall into paralysis by analysis, but doing research into strategies, questions, and steps you can take to find your professional passion and purpose can give you structure and aid in your journey.
- Brainstorm. Using the questions above, set aside 30 minutes to brainstorm. Write down every idea that comes into your head without judgement; no idea is a bad idea!
- Choose ideas to explore. Once you complete your brainstorm, organize your interests and strengths in order from most to least appealing. It’s important to create this list based on what is most appealing to you, not what your significant other, parents, or other outside influences would want you to do.
- Set goals and commit. Set SMART goals – those that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based – to start exploring your top interests. For example, you might be interested in learning more about graphic design. Set an initial goal to explore three free online courses by next Friday and register for your top choice on Monday. The key is to make sure these initial goals are achievable, so you can get quick wins under your belt, build confidence, and make steady progress. You can also set stretch goals for yourself that pair with SMART goals if you find this structure motivating. As you complete goals, don’t forget to set new goals!
- Note your observances. As you start to explore your interests, keep notes about what you feel and observe – the good, the bad, and the ugly. As you dig deeper into your interests, you’ll start to get a sense for those that are keeping you engaged. Some of your interests may require hard work that deeply challenges you, but it’s important to check in with yourself to see if these challenges are energizing or draining to you.
- Lean in and embrace your discoveries. The journey toward finding your professional passion and purpose is unique for each person, and if you discover that it takes you down an entirely different career path, it can feel intimidating and overwhelming. But by leaning into the process, giving yourself permission to explore, and setting goals along the way, you’ll be setting yourself up to objectively learn much more about what you find fulfilling and what will bring you the most happiness in your career. If you need support, you’re not alone. Reach out to a trusted friend, mentor, career coach, therapist, or another person who can listen or offer advice without making you feel ashamed or guilty for making changes in your life and career (see the section below about toxic positivity).
- Pursue your path. Finding your professional passion and purpose is a path that will extend the length of your career. Be open to change, flexible with your curiosity, and know that your passion and purpose will likely evolve as your career does. The road to finding and pursuing your professional passion and purpose might be long with unexpected twists and turns, but finding the career that best suits your talents and interests will be well worth it!
Recognizing and banishing toxic positivity.
In the social media age, building an outward image of success, happiness, and well-being is an easy trap to fall into, especially when it comes to showcasing your professional passion and purpose. While it might sound counterintuitive, positivity can be toxic. When you’re going through a difficult time or in a period of flux, toxic positivity can bubble up in the form of well-intentioned but still harmful sentiments. “Happiness is a choice,” “just stay positive,” and “everything happens for a reason” are all examples of clichés that can end up shaming and blaming the person who is attempting to navigate the tough situation.
While finding your professional passion and purpose, know that it’s okay and normal to feel sad, scared, lost, anxious, and a host of other unhappy emotions, and it’s also possible to feel negative and positive emotions at the same time while on this journey; you can simultaneously feel nervous and hopeful about your future.
If you feel toxic positivity creeping in, try a few of these techniques:
- Instead of avoiding negative emotions, give yourself permission to feel them without expecting too much from yourself.
- Implement a self-care routine, find healthy ways to manage your anxiety and stress, and focus on concrete actions you can take to feel better and more in control. Consider meditation, yoga, or journaling.
- Take a social media break if you find that “positive” social media accounts or “uplifting” quotes leave you feeling ashamed, feeling guilty, or comparing yourself to others.
Put your professional passion and purpose into practice at Gannett Fleming.
Do you want to work on innovative projects that help the communities in which you live and work? Does feeling valued as an individual and being given opportunities to grow in your career motivate you? Are you energized by a collaborative environment that embraces diversity and promotes inclusivity? Then Gannett Fleming might be the perfect place for you! For more than 100 years, we’ve been a leader in global infrastructure solutions. Despite our tenure and size, we continue to innovate and reinvent ourselves, providing opportunities to work on large, impactful, and diverse projects. Learn more about us and apply to our open positions today.
Put your professional passion and purpose into practice at Gannett Fleming.
Do you want to work on innovative projects that help the communities in which you live and work? Does feeling valued as an individual and being given opportunities to grow in your career motivate you? Are you energized by a collaborative environment that embraces diversity and promotes inclusivity? Then Gannett Fleming might be the perfect place for you! For more than 100 years, we’ve been a leader in global infrastructure solutions. Despite our tenure and size, we continue to innovate and reinvent ourselves, providing opportunities to work on large, impactful, and diverse projects. Learn more about Gannett Fleming, our people, and apply to open positions today.