Ask Knightley: Passion in the Workplace

fun button

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. As always, these answers are just my opinion – they are not necessarily Emma Approved – but hopefully some of you will find an alternate point of view to be helpful. Several of you asked questions about reconciling your interests with your careers, so I thought I’d focus on that today.

Rachel Brown asked:

What advice can you give others that feel their current position/career is not what they want to be doing or is inconsistent with their passions?

Quit and go camping.

Just kidding.

Seriously, though, if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, figure out what it is that would change that and then come up with a plan to push your life in that direction. I realize that’s a lot easier to say than to do, but if you know that you’re unhappy, you need to start coming up with an exit strategy.

“Strategy” is the key word here. Generally, it’s not a great move to just quit your job without having some idea of how you’re going to pay the rent. If you are not passionate about your current gig, start quietly investigating the options that are available to you in a field that excites you. Once you have identified the area you’d like to move into, find out what the qualifications are to actually get that dream job. Do you have to go back to school? Are there specific skills, such as computer programs, that prospective employers will be looking for on your resume? Is landing a particular job more about the type of connections you might be able to build through an internship?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make a decision about your next steps. And even if it means you stay at your current position for another year or two so that you can go to school at night, you won’t mind because you’ll know it’s a temporary situation.

Jordan E asked: 

I’m good at what I do – a nice office job – but I’d rather be writing. But I realize our individual passions aren’t always what pay the bills. How do you stay enthusiastic and creative working from a cubicle, or in your case, an office?

Luckily for me, I’m very happy with my current work situation, so it’s easy to stay motivated. But I realize that for many people, passion and paying the bills don’t always go hand in hand. A few ideas:

  • Don’t try to turn your job into something it isn’t. If you know that writing is your higher calling, recognize that your day job is just that – a day job. While it may seem slightly odd to suggest lowering your expectations, I think that if you accept your current situation for what it is, you won’t constantly be disappointed by it. Then just make sure you really put your off hours to good use writing.
  • Appreciate your co-workers. Even if you’re not spending your days doing exactly what you might want to be doing, that doesn’t mean that the people you work with aren’t worth your time or energy. Often, they can turn out to be your biggest fans, coming out to support your creative endeavors when your fellow artists are too busy with their own projects. Plus, as a writer, it’s good to be exposed to people who are different than yourself – you never know what stories you might unearth from the guy in the cubicle next door.
  • Learn something new. If you are bored at work, see what new skills you can pick up while there. This will keep your mind sharp and your energy up. Even better, see if you can get the company you are at to pick up the tab. Check your benefits paperwork. Sometimes your company will pay for you to take an approved class outside of work or online. Another option is to go through the Human Resources department to request a class that might be useful to others at the company. Sometimes they’ll be willing to bring in a Microsoft Office guru to teach you tricks that will turn you into an Excel ninja.
  • Look for opportunities to apply your passion to your current workplace. Even if your outside interests aren’t the reason you were hired, there may be ways to use them to reinvigorate your current situation. For example, if you are passionate about the environment, see if your company has a Green Team – or start one of your own. If party planning is your thing, get involved with the holiday office party. And if you are in the process of getting certified to teach yoga, see if you can start a lunchtime class at the office.

Aldana Cuevas Zurita asked: 

My question now would be how to balance the hours of studying with partying? I’m in school and sometimes it’s hard to do.

If you’re asking this question, you probably already know the answer.

Cut down on the beer pong and put more hours in at the library.