It’s easy to feel dissatisfied or disheartened about your career when you don’t know what your ‘thing’ is. You know, the ‘thing’ you were put on this earth to do. That ‘thing’ you’re meant to think about every waking moment, or be better at than anyone else.

You might call this your ‘passion’.

If you know what you’re passionate about and can make a living off it, you’re an anomaly! Not everyone experiences that – in fact, a lot of us don’t.

So what do you do when you’re not passionate about your job?  And how can you pursue your passions if you’ve got no idea what they are?

Just start somewhere

Let’s get something straight: You don’t need to know your ‘thing’ right now.

Finding your passion and purpose in life is a process. It’s not like you graduate from college and immediately know what to do with your life. (If only!)

We have to start somewhere. And sometimes that may be waiting tables or bagging groceries. It may not be glamorous, and it may not be exciting, but every job is a step towards discovering your unique ‘thing’.

Accept that you don’t need to be passionate about your job

Sarah Jaffe’s book Work Won’t Love You Back suggests that the “love your work” mantra is a myth of capitalism designed to make us work harder for less money.

The reality is we need income to live, and sometimes that just means doing any old job to get by. Don’t let this be the end of your search for work you care about. In fact, you can still turn passionless work into something meaningful.

Here are some ways to stay motivated (and sane) in a job you don’t love, but need.

Shift your mindset

Actively let go of negativity, stop complaining, practise gratitude and see your job as a means to an end. You’ll find your outlook on life change instantly.

Change what you can about the job

Perhaps you can’t land the exact job you want. Focus instead on changing what you can about your position to make it work for you. Explore your skills and preferred working styles to try to create a role you enjoy.

Make friends

Becoming friends with your colleagues can make all the difference and help you enjoy your current situation.

Explore passions outside of work

For example, if you’re passionate about tech, joining a community like Girls in Tech can ensure you’re pursuing your passion while still doing what you need to do to make money. Completing courses and participating in events can help you gain skills and meet people. And who knows? Your next career opportunity could come from a community like this.

Network and learn

Use your current position to meet people and learn new things. Perhaps you could ask to shadow a colleague from a completely different department to get insights into their role. Or get career advice from people in leadership positions. Maybe you could find a mentor within the company to help you progress.

Know that your ‘thing’ doesn’t have to be your job

Keeping your ‘thing’ separate from work may even make it more enjoyable for you. You may be able to commit time to your passions around your day job.

You could volunteer for an organization in the field you love, start a side business, organize a meetup, or just research and enjoy your passion as much as you can.

Pinpoint what you’re passionate about

So how can you pursue your passions when you have no idea what they are?

Author and copywriter Elisabeth Ovesen’s advice is this: “Consider the subject matter you think about often, talk about, go out of your way to get involved in and research. Your passion is buried in there, somewhere.”

Dan Cable calls it a ‘blister’: “the thing you come back to time and again, even though it is hard and you might not be that good at it (yet).”

While you may not have astounding skills at anything in particular, look for recurring themes in your life (inside or outside of work). Ask yourself what you’re naturally drawn to – be it writing, fixing things, creating presentations, forming relationships, asking questions, simplifying complex things, cooking, or caring for people (or animals). These themes are a good indication of what you’re passionate about.

Another approach is to identify what brings you energy.

David Sarokin says: “Passion is what gives you boundless energy, intense almost single-minded focus and the willpower to overcome even the most daunting obstacles.”

Think about what excites and empowers you – that’s probably related to your ‘thing’.

Change your focus as your passions shift

Julia Wuench believes that what gives you energy is likely to shift and change throughout life. We LOVE her advice:

“Commit to learning and re-learning what energizes and drains you. By dedicating yourself to what sparks your interests and what doesn’t, you can more easily align with a successful career path that highlights your true talents.” 

So to recap:

  • Taking the pressure off the need to ‘love your job’ can allow you to spend time naturally discovering your passions.
  • If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, explore recurring themes in your life, and what gives you energy.
  • Note that your passions will probably shift throughout your career.
  • Remember, you’re on a journey. Trying new things and learning more about yourself is part of what makes life interesting.

Perhaps, like Dayle Stevens, Chief Data Officer at AGL Energy, trying out a career completely unrelated to your interests will reveal your passion for tech. Maybe you’re the person your colleagues call on to fix the office printer. Or perhaps you find yourself always looking for new ways to improve processes using technology.

If you’re not working in the tech industry now, be encouraged that every company is a tech company anyway. And there’s more than one way to work your way into a tech job that you’re passionate about.

We know you’ll find your ‘thing’ in life. Let us know when you do.