Backing Your Passion
By Vaughan Evans
Are you unfulfilled in your job? You are not
alone. One-half of US employees are dissatisfied with their jobs, up from
two-fifths 10 years ago.
Perhaps it's time to move on. But where? And will you be successful in your
new job? Or would it be a case of "out of the frying pan into the fire"?
You can minimize that risk. You should find a job that fires you with
hwyl—the Celtic concept of passion, fervor, and spirit that can lift you to
extremes of success. Then you need to check that market conditions at this
job are favorable, and that you will be at least reasonably well placed to
succeed in the job. But first things first.
Find a Job with Hwyl
To find a job you feel passionate about, you need a process. Make three
columns on a sheet of paper or on the computer. In column one, write down
all the names of people who have jobs that inspire you. In the middle
column, write down the type of work they do. In the third column, put 1–5
tick marks according to how passionate you feel about these jobs, where 1 =
okay job, and 5 = truly inspired.
For ideas, look to friends, family, and colleagues—and their friends,
family, and colleagues. Think of fellow members of interest groups you
belong to. Think of people you have read about in the press or seen on TV.
Don't forget fictional people in books, movies, and plays. Don't limit
yourself. Dream large. Write down any job that sounds fun or exciting to
Use a Screening Process to Arrive at a Short List
Okay, now you have a long list, and you've given each job a hwyl rating (a
ranking between 1 and 5 on your "passion-o-meter"). Now rearrange them in
order of hwyl rating. Hopefully you will have a list of at least a dozen or
so jobs to which you have given four or five ticks.
But this will be no more than a wish list. It could range from such entries
as Barack Obama, president, 5 ticks, to Uncle Joe, plumber, 4 ticks.
The list should be screened against two criteria: job market conditions and
your likely competitiveness in the job. Gut feel is all you need at this
stage. You won't have detailed information on either criterion at this
stage, but you don't need it yet. The aim is to find out whether any of
these top dozen jobs is a runner.
Under job market conditions, consider such factors as job market size (just
the one in the case of president, thousands more for plumbers), job market
growth (zero in the presidency, strong in plumbing), competitive intensity
(cut-throat at the top in politics, not too tough in plumbing), and job risk
(brutal at the White House, low in plumbing).
For the competitiveness criterion, don't be too harsh on yourself. This is a
new job you will be seeking, so it is clear that you can't be a stellar
performer straight away compared to current practitioners. Consider factors
such as your capabilities, current and potential, pertinent to the job, and
your related experience, direct and indirect. For the presidency, how do you
rate your capabilities in, for example, law, policy analysis, and public
speaking? For plumbing, what experience in, for example, fixing or
installation have you had over the years?
Research the Short List
Which of those top dozen jobs with hwyl have managed to pass through the
screen? That is, where market conditions and your capabilities are generally
favourable. If one or two, that's great. If none, that's too bad, but move
down the list and bring up the next dozen or so jobs, perhaps those with at
least three hwyl ticks. And so on, until you have a short list of two or
three jobs. These are jobs that not only have, hopefully, plenty of hwyl,
but where you may also be backable to a potential investor in yourself.
But that investor will want more detail. You must now thoroughly research
these short-listed jobs. Talk to practitioners, talk to their customers.
Just what are the capabilities required to do the job? How would you fare?
What entry strategy should you deploy? What should you be doing now to
strengthen your positioning before you take the leap?
The Realtor Turned Plumber
I included the plumber example above for a reason. Randy was a realtor in
Atlanta, a very good one. He had the knack of empathizing with both vendor
and buyer to close the deal. Yet his heart was not wholly in it. What he
really loved doing was fixing things, getting his hands dirty. His Uncle Joe
was a plumber and he had helped him out a couple of times and thoroughly
enjoyed it. But was plumbing a serious potential career switch, or a fancy?
Plumbing sailed through Randy's screening process, beating off fire-fighting
and pro basketball. Then he did some serious research. He spoke at length
with Uncle Joe, many of his uncle's colleagues, and a few customers. Greatly
encouraged, he prepared an entry strategy. He signed up for two evening
courses, one on basic plumbing and one on a specialized area. He helped out
his uncle on weekends. Well researched, well prepared, he quit his realtor
job and launched his own plumbing business. It has flourished. These days he
wakes up each morning with a spring in his step. He is living the hwyl.
Randy's story illustrates how you can find unexpected, fulfilling careers by
following your passion. Randy's hwyl lay in plumbing. He backed it. So can
About the Author:
Vaughan Evans is a renowned economist, business strategist, sought-after
speaker, and the author of Backing U! A Business-Oriented Guide to Backing
Your Passion and Achieving Career Success (Business and Careers Press, 2009,