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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

How to Find Your Passion Over Your Lunch Break (or At Least Get Started)

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Perhaps because I work at The Muse, my friends will open up to me about their careers after a beer or two. As you can imagine, they have lots of questions and concerns, but their biggest struggle revolves around finding their passion. And not in a “I have no idea what I want to do” kind of way, but more of a “Where do I even start?” way.

Sound familiar?

We all know that finding your passion doesn’t happen in a day. It takes time, serious thought and effort, and some trial and error. But you have to begin somewhere! Lucky for you, the best way to start only requires 30 minutes—say, the length of your lunch break—and all you have to do is answer a few questions about yourself.

Now, these aren’t just any questions, I reached out to three Muse career coaches, Theresa Merrill, Joy C. Lin, and Katie Stricker, and asked them to share their favorite thought starters.

Merrill, a LinkedIn expert who specializes in career changers and mid-level job seekers, suggests you start with these:

  1. What’s been a common theme in your life? What’s something that people would say about you in each job you’ve held?

  2. What skills come to you naturally? How could you possibly use those to make a living? (Get creative, this is just a brainstorming activity.)

  3. What types of things do friends, colleagues, or family usually seek your input for?

  4. What would you do for nothing? If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you be doing? (Again, this is just hypothetical.)

  5. What’s something that, when immersed in it, you lose track of time?

  6. What gets your blood boiling? What’s a problem in the world that you’d love to fix?

Lin, a coach known for career strategizing on Quarter Life Joy, added a few others to this list:

  1. What’s one moment or accomplishment that made you feel really confident? What were you doing, and what part of it brought you the most joy?

  2. In past (or present) companies, what internal or external problems would you be interested in solving?

  3. What results bring you the most satisfaction?

And Stricker, a certified professional coach and experienced consultant, recommends a bottom up/top down approach:

“Essentially, figure out what you like to do day-to-day, then look at your passions and see what the functional role within that areas might work best for you.”

It would look something like this:

  1. What three things did you truly enjoy doing today?

  2. How can you do more of these things?

  3. How might you apply what you like to do in your day-to-day in an industry you’re excited by? Or, what roles within this industry could you research?

And, she says, “don't forget to stay curious:”

  1. Who has a role that looks really interesting that you could learn more about?

  2. What methods could you use to learn more about this industry or role?

Some of these you might be able to answer right away, others might really make you stop and think. In fact, your first thought might be, “I need more than 30 minutes to answer these.” And that’s OK, this means you’re taking your career path seriously (as you should).

That’s exactly why we created this downloadable worksheet that you can always come back to when you have time to do some serious thinking.

As Stricker says, “The biggest thing is to remember is that it’s OK to not always know what you’re passionate about, and that constantly asking yourself questions daily is important. I find many people forget that they actually did things they enjoyed when they aren’t totally happy in their role, so constantly reminding yourself of that is super important! Whether you love to crunch the data or create a strategic plan, pay attention to the small things that make your heart sing—and do more of that.”

Once you have these answers, you’ll be able to start making moves—grabbing coffee with that person you listed, taking a class to enhance that skill you’re proud of, or even meeting with a coach to just get advice on how to go from A (your answers) to B (a job).

Ultimately, the reward of this hard work is huge—if you can just get out of your own head. As Krista Moroder says about her decision to go from education to software engineering, “It’s never going to get easier, but it will get less scary as soon as you take that first step.”

So take it—today.