How do I figure out what my life's purpose is and how to make money at it? I’m bored at work, but excelling in other areas of my life. I know I can't work for someone else for the next 20 years. I’ve owned my home for 12 years and have an undergrad and master’s degree. I’m involved in my community via my sorority, a women’s professional club and am an active volunteer in Junior League, and I’m in a relationship with a great guy. But my career has been at a standstill for the past two years. — Susan
You have so much going for you! Multiple degrees, involvement in your community, the stability of home ownership – and a great guy to boot! These are all solid foundations to build on. From passion and talent and focus comes purpose. So the goal should be to find something you naturally love to do, translate that professionally then figure out how to monetize it.
First, find some quiet, focused time and recruit a friend to help. Have them interview you – asking you the following questions and composing lists of your answers. As you answer the questions, focus on yourself as a whole person – not just the “work” you and the “personal” you.
- What are the things you’re good at? (These may or may not be things you enjoy doing.)
- What are the things you’re good at and enjoy doing?
- What are the things you’re passionate about?
There are no right and wrong answers. Just be honest with yourself. Have your friend really probe for deeper answers in a way you wouldn’t if you did the exercise yourself. Objectivity is a powerful weapon when looking for the truth.
Once you complete the lists, the goal is to see what things overlap between things you are good at, enjoy doing and feel passionate about. Let’s say in your case you “love to teach and mentor” or “enjoy engaging with people” or “are passionate about constantly learn new things” or “want to leave a legacy.”
Once you see patterns emerge, start thinking in the broadest terms about what jobs you could do that incorporate all or most of those things. In your case, teaching might fit, and so might running a nonprofit where you can make a difference, or starting and running your own business in an area that interests you.
Next, activate your network. Make a list of every person you know. Literally. Friends, family, Junior League members, sorority sisters, volunteer associates. Everyone. Now group them together in categories like: people related to the educational field, people who volunteer or work for nonprofits, people who are particularly entrepreneurial. You want to create groups that build pathways forward.
Once you have a general idea of the kind of position you might want to seek – or company you might want to start – talk about it with everyone in your network. Guaranteed you’ll find that through your network – and their networks – you’ll get all kinds of leads, ideas and suggestions about who to call or where to begin.
Finally, create a timeline for yourself. Good intentions alone won’t get you where you want to go. Set a goal of talking to two or three people in your network each week and exploring where those conversations lead.
It’s a journey of discovery, and you’re building a map for yourself. Good luck!
Chris Tardio is a trusted advisor and business coach to a dynamic range of women business leaders. She can be reached at thelookinglass.com.