By Debra Davenport
Ever wish you were one of those fortunate people who knew -- at the age of 6 -- exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up? If you find yourself as an adult still searching for your passion, don't despair. Many people -- too many to count -- share your career conundrum.
The key is not wasting any more precious time in a career that doesn't fit and finding the livelihood that's a natural extension of the real you. Here's how:Retrace Your Steps
Often, career passions are formed in childhood. What did you enjoy as a child? What were your hobbies and interests? What games did you play? What were your early career fantasies?
Identify What Really Matters
Your values are the map to your perfect career. Identify those that are most important to you. Time freedom, perhaps? Creativity? Travel? Working alone? Being your own boss? Make a list of everything you deeply value and want in your career.
Are you seeking to make a difference or contribute to society through your work? Is there a spiritual component to your career? How do see yourself effecting positive change?
Many people feel stuck because they simply don't know what exists in terms of career possibilities. Research careers on the Internet, network, ask questions, read voraciously and jot down every idea.
Try It on for Size
Internships and apprenticeships are great ways to try on careers. Use vacation time to "shadow" someone whose job interests you. Volunteer or get temporary jobs in the fields that interest you.
Listen to Your Heart
What do you enjoy doing so much that you'd do it for free? What activities give you the most joy? Cooking? Singing? Writing? Inventing? You really can make a career out of the things you love -- that's what finding your passion is all about.
Seek out a certified career counselor and request a comprehensive career assessment. There are many validated assessments available. At the minimum, you should complete a personality profile (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), a career-interests assessment and a work-values assessment.
Peel Away the Layers
Working in an unfulfilling career can cause you to make adaptations to your behaviors and belief systems that can impact confidence and self-esteem -- two things you need in order to make smart decisions for yourself. Strip away the false and/or negative belief systems ("I can't do that." "I'm not smart enough." "You have to have a lot of experience to do that.") and get to your truth. That's where your passion lies.
Remember: Skills can be learned, but your passion is a part of who you are. The reality is you can do whatever you want to do and set your mind to do. The old adage, "Do what you love, the money will follow" is actually very good advice. It may take some work to reveal what you're truly meant to do but, if loving your career is important to you, your efforts will be a valuable investment in your future happiness.
[Debra Davenport is president of DavenportFolio, a licensed firm that provides career counseling, Certified Professional Mentoring and executive search services.]