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I asked myself this question over and over again in college. I had already declared my journalism major, but I started questioning that decision: Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? Will I be any good at it? Can I make a living off of it? Should I explore other options? Being the planner and the worrier that I am, I decided to declare a second major in human development. My backup plan was to become a teacher if the whole writing thing didn’t work out.

I doubled my course load and took human development classes for a couple semesters—but it just didn’t feel right. My heart wasn’t in it. Sure, I love kids and being a teacher would be an amazing experience. But I knew if I went down that road, I wouldn’t be able to give it my all. Because what I truly wanted to do was write… even if it made for an unreliable, unpredictable career.

The first few months out of college were scary. I was constantly scouring the web and the paper for job opportunities, sending my resume to random companies, and of course questioning my decision to become a writer—but (this story has a happy ending), I was finally offered an amazing opportunity to prove and showcase my writing abilities. And now, here I am. Using my skills and my passion to help you find the right career path too.

Finding the Passion in Profession

If you don’t love your job (or at least like it), you’re not going to be happy. It’s as simple as that. You have to choose a career path that you’re passionate about. Vinodha Joly, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, can personally attest to this truth: she worked as a Computer Engineer in Silicon Valley for over a decade, but ultimately felt unfulfilled. She decided to pursue her passion and transitioned into her current vocation in the field of psychology.

“In the South Asian culture that I grew up in, academic success was highly valued, so my initial career choice of Computer Engineering was based on my aptitude and social/family values,” she says. “However, after graduating from top engineering schools, and working for a while as a Computer Engineer, I realized that I didn’t really care about technology. My initial career choice had not taken into account my individual values or true passion. There have been no regrets at all in switching to a career as a psychotherapist, as it is truly aligned with my aptitude, values and passion, and I feel so fortunate to have found my vocation.” Joly recommends that you align your career decisions with your aptitude, values, and passions as well—doing so will help you to make smart decisions and also make for a happy life.

Ask Yourself These 5 Important Questions

Keeping in mind Joly’s advice, ask yourself the following five questions. Dr. Sal Raichbach, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, says exploring their answers will give you a better idea of where your interests, values, and skills all come together to make for a fulfilling career:

    1) Does the job interest you?
    “They say do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, but not everyone chooses to pursue their true passion as a full-time career. That is why it is so important that you find a career that at least interests you. If you are genuinely interested in and excited about what you do, you’re more likely to stay in that career and be happy about it.”

    2) Does it pay enough to support your desired lifestyle?
    “While a good job should be more to you than a means to get a paycheck, it is impossible to ignore the financial aspect. In the long run, it is not wise to choose a higher paying job over one that would be more fulfilling to you, but depending on your lifestyle, you may find it easier to make that trade off.”

    3) Does the career play to your strengths?
    “A job should be challenging, but it should not feel impossible. Adding extra stress and unrealistic expectations can wreak havoc on your work life as well as the rest of your life. If you are not quite sure how to pinpoint your strengths, ask your friends and family for their honest thoughts on what they think you are good at.”

    4) Do you feel the work is important?
    “If a job doesn’t feel meaningful and purposeful, it is easy to grow tired of it. Look for job opportunities with companies and organizations whose missions you personally care about. For example, there are positions for marketing professionals in a vast variety of industries, but it is a lot easier to do well in marketing if you are marketing something that matters to you.”

    5) Will it leave you feeling accomplished?
    “If a position sounds like just a job and would not make you feel good about yourself, you should probably rethink pursuing it. Forty hours a week is too much time to be doing something that you don’t feel benefits you personally outside of monetary gain. At the end of the day, you want to come home feeling like you achieved something worthwhile, not just put food on the table.”

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