I would imagine all of you would say ‘yes’ to the title of this post. But do you actually know what interests you? If not then I’m hoping my own journey will give you something to mull over. Doing what interests you is fairly obvious advice, why wouldn’t you do what interests you or what you enjoy? Yet when it comes to jobs I know people who are unhappy with the one they have and they stay there. They give their reasons for staying such as ‘no other opportunities’, ‘I’m not skilled enough to move on’, ‘I like the salary’, ‘It might get better’ and ‘no time to search for other jobs’. I do get this, I’ve said some of those things myself, but I personally feel these are all excuses. I’m not saying you have to be ‘passionate’ about it or it has to be your ‘dream job’ but something that interests you, engages you, makes you feel happy is not only possible, it’s what we deserve. No job is perfect (it will always have something in it that you find slightly tedious) and we’re only human (so we’ll always go through good days and bad) but doing what interests you is what everyone should be aiming for.
I think one of the issues is that a lot of us haven’t taken the time to step back and really reflect on what interests us. Or, we have so many things we like to do it overwhelms us to even think about narrowing it down to one thing. Or we write off even the possibility of doing what interests us because ‘no job exists that let me do that’. Again, I get that and I’ve been there. But I challenge you to make the time to reflect, to talk to someone to get help narrowing it down or to discover if it really doesn’t exist.
If I asked my student self what interested me at University I would have said “talking with my friends, reading, going to parties, and watching TV”. If I then heard someone say ‘do what interests you’ I would have thought “I can’t get a job talking to my friends or I can’t be a professional party goer”. I was too literal. It’s about looking deeper.
How do you go deeper? You get curious and ask yourself (or get help) questions, like the below:
What do you like about talking with your friends? I like how they make me feel, I like that I feel comfortable with them, we have things in common, I like that they feel they can talk to me about anything, they always say I’m a good listener.
What do you like to read? I like to read magazines and fictional books. What types of magazines? I like the human interest ones. What do you like about them? I like seeing how people have overcome something and it’s just interesting to read about what other people do. What type of fictional books? Oh, just easy-reading books, books about girl meets boy, they overcome some issue in their relationship, they live happily ever after, that type of thing.
What types of parties do you like? Well, sometimes I like the big ones, where I can feel anonymous and go a bit crazy but I also like the quieter ones when I can talk and it’s always interesting to observe other people’s behaviours, people do odd things at parties.
And what TV shows do you enjoy watching? I like the cooking programmes. What do you like about the cooking shows? I like seeing what they create and come up with. Oh, I also like home improvement ones, it’s cool seeing a house get built from scratch or improved to look better.
So, what do I get from this? By the sounds of things they seem to like listening to people, finding out about them, observing them. They seem interested in what people do and how they work through an issue such as a relationship. They like to feel inspired about things being created, improved, made better. They like being around people they feel comfortable with. They are happy in a quiet space as well as a noisier one, they like to connect with people but are also happy being left alone to do their own thing (be anonymous).
This is a very quick, condensed and simple example but hopefully people can see what I’m trying to do – show that it is possible to find out what you like and what interests you, as well as the type of work environment you might like to be in and the type of people you want working around you. From looking at the above it seems obvious that this person will be happiest working with people in some way but the next step is the most important one and that is how. How do they want to work with people? It’s all very well identifying what interests you but it can be hard trying to figure out what job you can do. Plus if you identify multiple interests you need to think about your most preferred one or one that seems to over-arch everything else but more importantly one that you want to take further than just a hobby or something you do to relax. Something that interests you enough to push for it. How do you figure all of this out?
Research. Get involved. Be curious. Volunteering and talking to people who already do what you think you might like to do is great, find out if the image in your head matches the reality. If you don’t know anyone to talk to start with your family and friends, your lecturers, your careers office, ask if they know people who might know people. For example, I loved reading and so thought about being a librarian but on researching realised I needed further study (which I was so over) and that being a librarian wasn’t just talking to people about books. I thought about being a teacher because I liked helping people develop and had enjoyed some children’s programmes I volunteered at but again realised I didn’t want it enough, it wasn’t the right environment and that after a while the kids might annoy me, not a quality to have in a teacher! I then considered counselling but after volunteering at Lifeline for a few years realised it was too intense. I still liked helping people though and I needed a job so while I continued to figure things out I travelled and worked as an administrator and a personal assistant for organisations I liked because at their core they helped people – like social services, a psychology office, a mental health hospital, a polytechnic. Then I got the job as an administrator for the careers office at Victoria University because I had come back to the counselling idea and thought maybe being a career counsellor would be better than a personal counsellor. And what better way to figure out if I wanted to do this than being in the type of environment I would end up in, it was great for seeing if I wanted to invest further. I did because I have gone back to study as I finally felt interested enough in something to take it further. It means 4 years part time study but you know what, I don’t care because it’s what I want to do. In total that decision took me 10 years. Does it means I wasted those 10 years? Absolutely not. I used those 10 years to explore which is so much easier to do now. Life is long. A 70 year old today is a lot younger than a 70 year old several years ago. You will not be in one job your whole life. It’s ok, practically expected, for you to try something then go in another direction. Nothing is wasted, life is a journey after all.
Finally, work is only one part of your life. If the job that makes you happy doesn’t pay you enough money and you really can’t afford to do what makes you happy because you have bills to pay then be clever about your life outside work. This article says it much better than I could.
So, go forth and reflect! And remember
“Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.” – Johnny Carson
“If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.” – Katharine Hepburn