Loving What You Do (and What To Do If You Don’t)

By Josh Jacobson

I really love my job. There, I said it. After years of uncertainty about ‘why I’m here’ and ‘how I will leave my mark,’ I found the perfect career for someone with my combination of experience, skills, drive and a great big bleedin’ heart.

I know I’m lucky. I know not everyone has the opportunity to marry up ‘what I most love to do in the world’ with ‘what people will pay me money to do.’ And I won’t pretend that by snapping one’s fingers, whatever life circumstances keep that person from following their heart can be rendered insignificant. It is rarely that simple.

All that said, we don’t need to live in such a binary world where it is either the doldrums of a career spent languishing in misery or a purposeful life where everything locks in and la-di-da. Most of us live somewhere in the middle, including me. Because believe me, there are a ton of bad days mixed in with the good.

As we approach Valentine’s Day when love is in the air and on our minds, I want to reach out to the people who crave an alignment between their values and what they do for a living. I want to reach those talented, still-wildly-optimistic social good crusaders who for a myriad of reasons are not in the roles, the organizations or industries where they truly want to be and ask: what will it take for you to start down the path to truly loving what you do for a living?

And of course, I have some suggestions:

  • Make a list of pros and cons about your current job. If you could fix certain aspects of your current work conditions, would that be enough to keep you engaged? Or are you fed up wholesale with the direction your career has taken? Knowing the degree of change you are seeking is an important first step.
  • Are you a ‘talented professional?’ I bet you are. But what exactly are those talents, and how are they transferrable to a different role in another industry or organization? You know yourself best but we rarely do the self-analysis to understand the skills we have developed and how that differentiates us. Make your own list but also ask people who know you well: what do you think I do well and why?
  • Do you know what opportunities there are in your community? Do some online research to identify the types of companies and organizations that exist, their value propositions, and the roles that exist. It is a great big world and no one expects you to know everything, but not doing the legwork is a decision you make and no one will/should do it for you.
  • Talk to people with careers you admire to learn how they got their start. These individuals are a living case study for you to analyze and learn from. What are the barriers for you to move from where you are to where you’d like to be? Is it more schooling? Gaining experience? Developing a network? All three? We call this “primary research” and it is an important step in the process.
  • Once you have done some research, make a plan. People who successfully make a career transition are more often individuals who hold themselves accountable to a set of planned activities. Consider how long will it take you to achieve your goals, what action steps you will take and how you will know you are succeeding. Tenacity is key.

And if your career desire is in the realm of nonprofits, or if you even just want to kick the tires on what that could look like, join the Next Stage Talent Network and talk with us about our favorite subject: you.

Our February theme is “love what you do,” and we really want you to love what you do because nonprofits in our community need you.

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