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Why “Follow Your Gut And Work For What You Love” Is Terrible Career Advice

Why “Follow Your Gut And Work For What You Love” Is Terrible Career Advice

Follow you passion and everything will fall in place!

You’ve heard this kind of career advice many times now –  follow your passion, follow your dream, follow your gut, follow your purpose. They are all variations of the same idea. Thousands of people have followed this advice and have been burnt in the process. However, there are thousands others who have done it and have been successful as well!

What is the right thing to do? Should one quit their current boring job to follow their passion instead? Or not? After all if actors, world famous artists, Olympic athletes, and others have been successful in following their passion, why can’t you and me do the same?

Passion in this context is a word that is used loosely to represent interests, likes, talents, dreams, hobbies, and sometimes even strengths. The end idea is if you are doing work that you love and are passionate about, it is the perceived ultimate career bliss! You will be fulfilled, satisfied, and happy. What else could one ask for? That said, passion is truly an emotional state. Wikipedia defines it as “an intense emotion” or “desire for something.” Is this deep emotional state sufficient to keep you fulfilled and happy especially in your career?

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I hate to burst the fantasy bubble, but passion alone is NOT sufficient to attain that state of Zen in your career.

Your passions change over time

Yes, they do! What you are passionate about today, could lose your interest a few years from now. When I was in my early twenties, I had never cooked a day in my life and couldn’t care less about cooking (eating was a different story of course!). However, over the past few years, I have become deeply interested in cooking. I spend a lot of time cooking for my family. Now I love to cook, but things could change. I have picked up so many new interests over the years, but also lost interest in many other subjects too. I couldn’t drop it all and try to create a career each time I picked a new interest! I have spent time to explore those interests and seen which have persisted over time. Very few of these interests can be referred to as my passions.

Your passion doesn’t have to be the one thing that you do all day

Although I am passionate about cooking, pursuing a career in cooking is not for me! I use cooking as an outlet. It is a way to calm myself and to recenter myself by doing something that I enjoy. Your interest in music or sports doesn’t have to translate to having a career in music or sports. Indulge in that activity a few times a day or week as a way to reenergize yourself. You could volunteer as a sports coach, be a music teacher on the side, or sing at events once in a while. There are tons of ways to indulge in that passion. Learn what about that impassioned activity draws you to it. Is it what it does for you? Or is it what it can do for others?

Your passion could be competitive

If your passion is to win the next season of American Idol, it goes without saying that it will be competitive. Or if you want to be a Hollywood star, realize that it is a tough ambition to fulfill. The top spots are few. This warrants an important question: are you passionate about the act of singing, acting, or are you passionate about the movie industry? If you are passionate about the act of singing or dancing or acting; for example, there are different venues to pursue this passion. If you are passionate about the industry or a particular show, there are other ways to be involved in that industry itself. The possibilities are endless. This leads us to the next thought.

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Your passion is possibly a verb

If you dig deep, with “Why” questions, you will arrive at what aspect of the passion draws someone. To help others, to lead, to make a difference, to take care, to give someone joy, to solve problems – these may be the true aspects of your passion that motivate you. When you look at your passion from the point of view of these verbs, it could open up other possibilities. If my true passion is to solve problems, I could do that in numerous ways, and in numerous settings. I could it achieve this at my current occupation with the skill set I already have honed. If my true passion is to help others, I could do it in a myriad ways: at my workplace, outside my workplace, in numerous settings, with numerous vehicles. Sometimes we get attached to the vehicle itself and call that our passion. Passion can be any permutation of these 3 elements:

To _________ (fill in the verb that drives you – teach, solve, lead etc)

in/to ____________ ( where and who do u want to impact – workplace, volunteer organization, specific industry….etc)

with _________________ (your vehicle – singing, cooking, acting, problem solving etc)

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Examples:

To lead with my public speaking abilities in a youth organization

To bring joy with my singing abilities to senior citizens

You could be living your passion with just a few tweaks

Job dissatisfaction has many factors attributed to it. For example, in my previous job, I loved my workplace and the work I did, but I did not enjoy the 1.5 commute each way! If that factor was removed, I could possibly have been living my passion. I love to plan, organize, and manage tasks. I also love all things people development related, and love to get things done. I had it all in my previous role and I was good at it. However, the commute was the killer. If I could have telecommuted, I could have been living my passion! Identify the aspects of your job situation that irk you. Identify the aspects of your job situation that you love. See if there are ways you can eliminate the aspects on your irk list to spend more time doing things you love. Research has proven that when you love what you are doing, the impact on success is significantly higher.

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Your passion could be staring you in the face at your current work

The reality of our jobs today is that we graduate from college and take the job that we get. Some of us are lucky to have experienced some aspect of our future job through internships, co-ops, volunteering, or simply asking people questions. We may have an idea of what the job may entail. Others land a job that they may have not studied for or dreamed of, but over time they hone their skills and grow in their careers. These jobs could then turn into their passion. You don’t necessarily have to go look for your passion. Your current work could be your passion!

Conclusion

Passion alone is not the key to finding and staying at a job, or for finding that state of career bliss. Our passions change over time and so do our career trajectories. A combination of skills, interests/passions, commitment, hard work, social needs, and impact, govern our career bliss by combining all together!

That’s the end goal, right?

Featured photo credit: Ryan McGuire via magdeleine.co

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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