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Passion vs. Purpose: What Should Come First For The Job Seeker?

career purpose passion

As a Career Coach, the “passion or purpose” question is my version of “the chicken or egg” query – which comes first?!

Let’s take a step back. Many people think of purpose and passion as the same thing, but they are actually quite different.

Passions are things we love, but they aren’t always relevant to our careers. For example, many of us are passionate about things like football, musical theater, cooking or landscaping (note this recent blog post I wrote about why “following your passion” may not actually be the best career advice!).

COULD there be a career path in these areas? Of course. But if we’re honest with ourselves, those of us who aren’t destined to be a pro athlete or a chef usually know deep down when these things are best classified as hobbies. We know when there isn’t a realistic, tangible connection between this passion point and our career. We’re either not athletic enough (or too old!) to be a professional athlete, we don’t have the singing voice to be on the stage, or we simply don’t have the desire to take our cooking or landscaping interest beyond where it already is.

A purpose is different because it truly motivates us to do what we do professionally, going beyond just something we really like. But it’s often very hard to put your finger on your purpose. Let’s start by looking at what kinds of questions will NOT help us realize our true purpose:

  • How much money can I make?
  • What perks or benefits come with the company?
  • Can I earn a big bonus or commission check within a short period of time?
  • How fast can I advance?

Why do I say these things can’t determine your purpose? Because while these are “motivations” to work, they will never be the things that give you true satisfaction and joy in your career.

True purpose starts by identifying where your interests, natural abilities, and acquired skills/education cross paths. These are some of the questions you can ask (either yourself or other professionals/experts in the field) that hopefully will lead to answering your purpose:

  • What interests do I really have in realistic fields?
  • What sincerely excites me about doing a specific job?
  • Do I feel a real sense of connection around this role – a sense of calling that goes far beyond salary or benefits?
  • Can I envision how this job could continually provide personal satisfaction into the future?

If you can answer these questions, then you will have a purpose driving what job you pursue. And from my experience, over time that purpose will grow into a greater passion for what you do. You may never love it QUITE as much as your favorite football team, but you never know!

All too often job seekers start looking for a career with the “what’s in it for me?” mentality. But when you ask yourself the right questions, you’ll find a true opportunity to work and live with purpose and passion.