Take your passion and make it happen!
This blog post is about three things many people struggle with in life, and especially when it comes to successful job search:
1) Focusing on and following their passion.
2) The application of acquired knowledge to achieve their goal.
3) The continued application of said knowledge over an extended of period of time – the time it inevitably takes to get results.
Yesterday I was driving back home when Flashdance...What a Feeling by Irene Cara came on the radio. Listening to this, a song from Flashdance, the 1983 film by the same title (terrible film, but great soundtrack), one line hit me right between the ears – 'take your passion and make it happen', which leads on nicely to a more detailed exploration of point 1) above.
I have two young children and they dream without limits as to what the future could hold. Everything is in reach, yet as the years advance many of us (myself in the past included) forsake our dreams and passions for what we think is realistic and for what we think is possible.
The temptation can be to pursue remuneration or profit over passion, but the problem with this strategy is that it often leads to a lack of fulfilment and rarely has longevity. I've learnt from experience to forget 'I'll be happy when...' and instead to pursue passion ahead of anything else.
I was earning a very nice living back in 2013 when I made the decision to leave the recruitment business I'd jointly founded five years earlier. Without consciously realising it, I'd exchanged passion for profit and despite the financial rewards, something was missing.
I subsequently founded Career Codex and have never been happier. This is my passion, the thing I think about constantly and where I can make a difference to the lives of the people I work with. To begin with it was tough, but I've worked hard, stuck the course and am now seeing the fruits of my labour.
My passion has kept me going when in the early stages of building this business times were tough, and my experience reinforces my firm belief that it should be passion over profit every time. Doing something that doesn't fulfil, motivate or inspire is always a short-term proposition – it has a shelf life. If however you find what you're passionate about, you'll stay in the game longer to make it happen and you'll eventually see the rewards.
As a professional recruiter the majority of my candidates initially cited money as the reason for seeking out a new position, but on digging deeper this was rarely the true reason. When it comes to planning your future and your next career move getting really clear on what drives you, motivates you and ultimately what you're passionate about is the best clue as to what you really should be doing. Sure, there could be a short-term trade off, but in the long-term it's all worth it.
One of the challenges people face is not taking the time to get really clear on their direction of travel. I call this your 'destination' and until you've clarified this it's impossible to write a CV / resume or to attack the job market properly. One of my 'Executive Edge' clients recently recommended the book, Strategic Learning by Willie Pietersen, which reinforces this very point in a particular quote that really grabbed my attention:
'Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind.' – Lucius Annaeus Seneca a Roman philosopher who was born c.4 BC.
Despite the passage of time, the challenge outlined in this quote is still one of the major challenges people face when they enter the job market. We may have advanced in technology and our knowledge of the world, but people are still people.
Having identified your passion you have to focus. Successful businesses know that you can't be all things to all people and it's exactly the same when you come to position your skills and experience in the job market. Focus always trumps flexibility – back in my recruitment days the worst candidate for me to place was the one who told me that he or she could do anything. They believed that the more flexible they were the more opportunities I would be able to put in front of them. The reality however was very different – because they didn't know who they were or what they stood for, I had no idea how to talk to my clients about them and more often than not would leave them off my shortlists.
Focus is as much about what you decide not to do as what you decide to pursue. You only have a limited amount of time and energy to dedicate to your job search (particularly if you're currently in employment) – both are a scarce resource. Saying 'yes' to something inevitably means saying 'no' to something else – put another way, there is always an opportunity cost to every action.
2) Application of knowledge...
Despite what many think, knowledge is not power, it is in fact only potential power. I was reminded of this over the weekend in a video by Tony Robbins. In the world we now live in acquiring knowledge is easy thanks to Google, Amazon and the ever growing number of online courses, but applying that knowledge in our own lives is where the real challenge begins.
How many times have you read a book or attended a course and then gone on to implement some of the ideas to better your life or improve your performance in a particular field? We've all done it (or should I say not done it) – we don't mean to, we get distracted, life gets in the way or we quite simply forget.
My books provide a framework for finding success in the job market, but I know many will read the contents then fail to apply the principles in practice. It's not that the advice is difficult to understand or implement, it's because it requires a change in action, which often challenges the boundaries of the reader's comfort zone. As human beings we often say we like change – that is until change presents itself and requires us to think or act in a way we're not yet accustomed to.
3) Continued application of knowledge...
Most of us can do something once, but can we do something over and over again especially if things seem difficult at first? During my time in Japan on the Yoshinkan Aikido Senshusei course (an 11-month martial arts bootcamp with the Tokyo Riot Police) our training was often observed by international visitors to the dojo (training hall). I used to listen to some of the comments of those watching after the class. Things like 'that doesn't seem so bad' or 'I could do that' – my response (which I invariably kept in my thoughts) was – yes, but could you do it for four hours a day, five days a week for 11 months?
When it comes to job search there will be ups and downs – there is no plain sailing and rejection is simply part of the process. Different beliefs about the job market, a new way of thinking and consistent action over time are what gets results. Think about it, if you keep going and don't give up there can only ever be one outcome and that's finding the success you deserve. The only parameter of course is time, which is why persevering over an extended period of time (and using this time efficiently) is so important.
Part of the challenge is that if we are only accountable to ourselves, without discipline we are accountable to no one. Without accountability, action is usually temporary, particularly if the going gets tough.
Building in a system to make sure the right activity gets done is essential to success. Furthermore, with continued activity, through the power of self-awareness, observation and feedback you have the ability to get better and better.
There is always the option to learn along the way – the job market is not static and nor should be your strategy. Pietersen titles his book Strategic Learning and emphasises the need for a feedback loop. This continual self-reflection and assessment of feedback informs and moulds the strategy moving forward. There is an important distinction however between a knee-jerk reaction following a one-off event and an informed amendment based on a repeated observation.
In life and especially when it comes to job search, there is a big difference between what I call 'reactive chaos' and 'proactive control'.
The latter starts with getting behind your passion with a clear and determined focus. It's followed by translating this knowledge into action, which is continued and improved upon over time until you ultimately find and secure the success you deserve.