By Jillian Kramer. Photos: Courtesy of CNP Montrose.
Picture it: You love to get your stretch on at yoga class, but you're too shy to teach others downward dog. So instead, you schlep to your office five days a week to crunch numbers. (You've always been a whiz at math.) The truth is, you'd rather put a pen in your eye than add up any more assets.
You're at a crossroads, so to speak: Your passion is not your profession. And you're not sure whether it should be. Hold tight and read on—we're here to help.
The ultimate goal is to love what you do and be good at it. But not all of us are lucky enough to find that precious balance early in our careers.
"Here’s the thing," says Karen Elizaga, executive coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot. "You can work at getting good at something—you don’t have to be naturally skilled at it to excel. On the other hand, it’s much harder—although not impossible—to manufacture love for something just because you’re skilled."
Her point: Do what you love. But that's the easy answer. The real answer to your internal conflict is a little more convoluted. After all, we can probably all agree that the majority of the work we do should bring us joy, save for annoyances like time sheets or difficult clients. But that doesn't mean we can all afford—sometimes literally—to leave less than ideal positions for careers we love, or that we will make the right choices to get us to that point.
Here are a few things to do (and questions to ask yourself) that will help you determine what move to make.
1. Set reasonable expectations. When it comes to your career, should love be as all-encompassing as it is an exciting new relationship, or should it be the calm and steady kind you feel five years in? The answer is more like the latter, says Monster career expert Vicki Salemi. "You should love your job, but your heart may not be 100 percent in it all the time, every single day," says Salemi. "Strive for 90 percent or higher." That's not to say you should settle, but you should set achievable expectations for any career before you stay in or leave it.
2. Determine what motivates you. Let's get real for a minute: If you love yoga, but what really gets you excited is a big holiday bonus, becoming a (low-paid) yoga instructor won't be the best move for you. It's important to be brutally honest about what really motivates you—even if it's money—and make a career decision based on that, says Elizaga. And when a job hits those highlights, she says, you're in good shape.
3. Talk to others. You've got a career mentor, right? (If not, go get one, right now.) Ask him or her and your friends, family members, and neighbors whether they love their jobs and why. "Maybe some of them are very good at their jobs but don’t necessarily over-the-top love it," says Salemi, "whereas maybe others love their job but realize there are certain shortcomings such as limited mobility." You might learn from their answers, she says, and they could help you figure out what's right for you.
4. Look at your short and long-term future. Maybe leaving what you're good at to pursue doing what you love won't impact you much at all. But maybe it will—and in ways your haven't thought about. For example, "let’s say you work in finance and earn six figures," sets up Salemi. "You're also saving up for your wedding next year. You want to make a change to a non-profit, but know your income will be slashed in half." Maybe now isn't the time to pursue what a labor of love and you should stick to what you're good at—or at least what pays well—until you have more freedom.
In another example, "maybe you have health goals such as training to run a marathon," says Salemi. "While you don't love your job, you’re really good at it and it allows you to coast because you have tremendous work-life balance." That's another reason to stay in a job you don't wholly love—for now.
5. Ask yourself: What do you want to have accomplished in 10 years? Standing in the now, it can be tough to make career decisions. So, "it might be easier to decide your career route in retrospect, rather than going forward," says Elizaga. "Figuring out what you want to have done by a certain point in time will point you in the right direction, because you’ll see whether to be driven by your head or your heart."
No matter what, the good news is, "we’re not completely destined to be unhappy if we choose a career we’re good at but don’t love with all our hearts," says Salemi. You might work for a kick-ass company or an awesome boss, she points out—a place that makes it easy to return to your nine to five even if you don't love how you spend those hours.
"But at the end of the day, what matters most of all is the joy you get out of your work," Salemi says. "It’s like that question, 'If I won the lottery, would I still come to work?' Or, in all seriousness, 'how do I feel on Monday morning when I wake up to go to work?' If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it’s becomes harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. Then there’s a spiral effect: Your work productivity declines, quality plummets and you lose interest altogether."
In other words, aim to do what you love. But no matter what, do what makes sense for you, now and for your future.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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This story originally appeared on Glamour.
*More from Glamour: