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What to Do When You've Lost the Passion for Your Career

Boomers who have lost passion at work should take these steps to discover a job that offers joy

By Phyllis Weiss Haserot | March 14, 2013
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Phyllis Weiss Haserot, President of Practice Development Counsel, helps organizations and individuals solve inter-generational challenges among work colleagues and with clients. She writes regularly for Next Avenue. Reach her at pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com and www.pdcounsel.com.

Stories abound about people over 50 losing jobs and being forced to reinvent themselves, sometimes with very happy endings. But what about those who are fortunate enough to have jobs, but don’t love — or even like — their work anymore?
 
Sad to say, there are more of the latter and many of them feel hopelessly stuck.
 
A Practical Career That’s Lost Appeal
 
Unlike Gen Y/Millennials and Gen X, most boomers weren’t told they needed to find passion in work when launching their careers. Though many had a strong desire to change and save the world, the messages they got from parents and mentors were more practical.
 
(MORE: The Key to a Successful Career Shift: Asking for Help)
 
Their risk-averse parents who lived through the Great Depression often urged their children to enter respectable, seemingly secure professions or to work for big companies that were expected to take care of their employees.
 
So they did. And as a career consultant and coach, I’ve seen that they often “succeeded” by common definitions (money, status, influence). But many aren't happy.
 
Priorities Can Change Over Time
 
Love of their work is now frequently gone, perhaps because their priorities changed. In some instances, changes in their field and work culture have left them feeling that their careers are no longer meaningful, failing to align with their values.
 
Sound familiar? If so, I think it’s time to create your next career or job description.
 
Do some serious reflection and brainstorming with yourself about what you’d rather be doing. Don’t self-censor; keep an open mind.
 
(MORE: The Career Tip to Follow Your Passion: Is It Bunk?)

Questions You’ll Want to Answer

Below are some questions I think you should ponder. After you’ve answered them, you may want to engage a career coach to help get unstuck. A coach can provide support, guidance, accountability and enthusiasm.
  • Do you have a passion that you could turn into your next career or job? Ideally, pursuing your passion will allow you to earn a decent income by melding your professional and personal interests.
  • Do you need to make as much money as you earn now? Maybe you have been mindlessly cranking out work just for the income. If that’s the case, it could be that you’ve used your job as a way of “keeping score.”
  • What kind of problems do you like to solve? Once you’ve determined the answer, think about the customers or clients who’d need those problems solved. Then you can pursue them.
  • What achievements or outcomes make you feel your work is meaningful?
  • What would you like your legacy to be?

How To Begin Making a Switch
 
Once you’ve put some serious thought into these questions, you can start preparing for a new type of career that will provide more job satisfaction.
 
One way to do this is by honing skills you haven’t used lately. You could put them to work with a professional or volunteer organization. Organizing events there, for example, could lead to work in a public relations agency or marketing firm or in a company’s event planning department.
 
(MORE: Passionate About a Cause? Start a Nonprofit)
 
If you’re good at asking questions to ferret out information and live in a co-op or condo, you could interview potential buyers for the building’s board committee then leverage that experience to find work as a talent recruiter.
 
Don’t be shy about speaking with people in the field you want to enter so you can learn more about it. As Next Avenue recently wrote, asking for help is critically important when you want to make a career shift.
 
The Time May Be Right for an Adventure
 
You might even decide that you’re now ready and able to launch an income-producing adventure in a different country or culture. It could be that you held off making such a move because you needed a steady, secure paycheck to cover your mortgage and the children’s college tuition. But now that the kids are grown and the house is paid off, you’re free to delve into a life-changing experience.
 
Write Out a New Job Description
 
After you’ve spent time analyzing your next career move and networking accordingly (maybe even taking courses to learn about a new field), start creating an ideal job description.
 
Be as detailed as you can — and be sure to include how the job would fit into your life outside work. That way, your next step will be more likely to provide the fulfillment you’re not getting from your current employment.
 
From there, the next step is marketing yourself and your fit for the passion-filled work you’ve outlined for yourself.
 
Maintain a positive attitude and you may soon find the kind of joy from a job that you haven’t felt in quite a while.
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