I’m a big believer in passion. It’s such a useful emotion.

Just think about how often we use it:

  • For things we enjoy doing: “She’s passionate about gardening.”
  • To describe items of importance: “His speech was delivered with such passion.”
  • To characterize a couple in love: “They are so passionate; it’s hard to tear them apart.”

We also use the word to describe our work. These days, most of my clients will tell me one of two things:

“Tara, I don’t have any passion for the work I do.” OR

“I just want to quit and follow my passion for _________.”

What We Hear – What We Want

I know you want more. I know you want to do work you’re passionate about. You read the books, blogs and posts about the magic that happened for someone else who decided to follow his or her passion and you want the same thing.

The lucky few take off, know exactly what they’re doing and how to do it, and have the time and money to totally immerse themselves in something they’re passionate about AND make money at it. Then they turn around and write a book or a course and sell it to us: the corporate masses who have had enough of the cubicle farm or loud open desk arena.

The Rest of the Story

There’s more to the story behind each of those amazing success stories that we never hear. What we’re left with are assumptions that turn into lies we tell ourselves about following our passion. The lies lead to expectations so high that we end up feeling paralyzed or pushed to make decisions out of desperation instead of intention.

Here’s what you need to think about before you take the leap to follow your passion:

Great Expectations:

I could have SO MUCH MORE free time

Working long hours is a great investment if it’s getting you the recognition, pay, or satisfaction you want. If you are working hard and not seeing results in your career, start by thinking about why that might be. Does your manager require the overtime or are you having trouble with boundaries? Maybe you’ve got too much work any human could do in one day or you’re constantly on-call because the immediate response wins bonus points. You might be facing an increase in the amount of work in a down-sized environment. It’s exhausting. Before you jump to something else, look for clues and ask around. Will you be staring down the same issue? If you’re thinking about going out on your own, any entrepreneur worth his or her salt will tell you the workload doesn’t go down. Not if you want to make money.

If I build it, they will come

When I graduated from college, I told anyone who would listen that I wanted a job in between selling and marketing. No WAY did I want to be in “SALES.” I also said I didn’t want to spend 8 hours a day in front of a computer (but you see how well THAT worked out). You’re going to want to sell stuff to make money, right? That means you’re cold-calling or relationship-selling. Either way, you better have a pretty healthy network outside of your current team, company and industry (the ratios of calls to sales is something like 300:3). Whether you are selling the product of your passion or your passionate idea to another team/at another company, a broad and diverse network is the number one indicator of a successful career. Don’t count on your existing friends and family to buy from you. Think about who you would sell to and how many connections you currently have to that audience. How quickly can you grow it?

Elevator speeches are just for elevators

Yeah…just no on this one. You not only need to know what you’re passionate about, you need to know how to TALK about it to other people. We tend to think about Elevator Speeches as canned platitudes that we deliver at networking events or in actual elevators when have an accidental encounter with a B or C-suite exec. They can be BUT the more meaningful elevator speech is born from your personal brand statement – your basic building block for how you talk about who you are, what you have to contribute and why it’s important. Have you tried to explain who you are, what your product is and why you’re passionate about it in 30 seconds or less? Can you tell someone you’ve just met who you help and how you help them? Probably need to have that down before you shop for the next role or exit for entrepreneurship.

The grass is greener on the other side

You have some pains and frustrations in your current role. One of the assumptions we make is that going to a different role, a different company, or out on our own will fix the issues. Not unless you really dig into why you are unhappy and make sure you look for the opposite in your next role. Just know that changing managers or being your own boss may not be the magic cure-all. In fact, I think I’m harder on myself than most of my previous managers (and I had over 14 in just the last 12 years of my corporate career). Think carefully about what you want to be different and why it’s important to you. Then make your move.

I need to quit my job to really follow my passion

Hold up there, cowgirl! I know you’re feeling desperate but let’s not get crazy. Well, that’s what I wish someone had told me before my departure drama. Look, the truth is we ALL want to find meaning in the work we do. For women, statistically, it’s more important than money. If you can figure out what it is that you want to do and start working on it while you are pulling down a regular paycheck, you will have a HUGE advantage. There are so many details and infrastructure you will need to iron out to get up and running. You don’t even know. Thinking about changing jobs? How’s that 10-year old resume looking? How about your LinkedIn profile and connections? Want to start your own Etsy business or consulting? GREAT! Where’s your social presence? Think about a side-hustle to help you get your bearings before completely cutting ties with corporate.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Following your passion can be awesome. It IS fulfilling. But following your passion involves a lot more than doing what you love 100% of the time and the benefits aren’t immediate like all the facebook ads want you to believe. It’s taken me three years to really feel like I wasn’t lost on this journey. Maybe I’m a slow learner or maybe I’m just like you: trying to find meaning and desperate to take action to grab hold of it.

If you don’t know where to begin, make your first step to reach out for help. Talk to a coach who can help you sort through your values, vision and give you practical steps to get started. This is one of my favorite things to do with clients and audiences as they look to find more meaning in their lives and in their work and I would love to work with you, too. (Want to chat about coaching? Email me!)

Follow your passion. Please follow your passion. But as you get ready to free fall jump to whatever’s next for you, make sure you’ve packed your parachute and you know how far you’re planning to fall. Regardless, I’ll be there to meet you safely on the ground.

Tara Lynn is a leadership development speaker, Fascinate Certified Advisor, coach, and writer. She brings polished, insightful strategies to companies and individuals, helping them clarify their unique value and rise to higher standards of success. The practical tips and tools she shares get her clients from point A to point C while solving for the mysterious point B. 

Hear Tara’s story and follow her at taralynnfoster.com, on linkedininstagram  or Facebook.