The following article was originally posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 in The Globe And Mail.
The question I have had my own graphic design business since I was 18 and also worked in advertising for four years. Even though I am praised for my talents, and have moved up the ranks significantly in a short amount of time, I feel extremely bored and unfulfilled. For years my work has been easy, unfulfilling and boring. I just watch the time go by, counting the minutes till I have my freedom. I know it is time for a change… problem is, I don’t know what that is.
I have noticed that the majority of my friends are in sales. They are as social as I am and seem to truly love their jobs. Maybe that’s what I should do? I wish I could love my job. That is something I have always been jealous about. Is it even possible to love what you do? I think I could do sales but making a career jump from design has proven to be challenging to say the least. I have been looking for a large company that has great sales training programs. Problem is that I have been looking now for six agonizing months. Interviews here and there but none of them feel right for me. I’m waiting for that “ah-ha!” moment when you know this is the perfect place to be.
How do you stay motivated to keep looking? Or is there a time when you think you’ve tried all you can, it’s not meant to be, and need to dust yourself off and try something else?
People can love what they do, they just have to discover it. For some, the answer is clear from the start, for some it takes a while, and for others the ideal career keeps changing. You are not alone. But you can’t wait for that “ah-ha” moment to come — you must chase it.
A sales career may be right for you, but if it’s not, don’t feel bad about changing course. Finding passion in your work is a test and learn process.
When considering a sales career, keep in mind that such jobs can be quite diverse. For example, a retail sales person must be able to close sales with walk-in customers; an advertising sales representative must identify, cold call and pursue potential clients; a real estate broker must be a good people-driven networker, etc.
Ask your friends who are successful in sales what they love and hate about their careers. Their answers may surprise you. Being social doesn’t guarantee sales success. Some positions are high-stakes, high-stress jobs that are numbers-driven, complete with quotas and considerable time pressures.
If the last six months of job searching have been agonizing, that could be a red flag that you’re not interviewing with the right companies or for the right positions.
While you’re looking for large companies that will train you (putting the onus on the company to see your potential), many employers are looking for sales people who are actively investing in themselves (i.e. looking for go-getters). Consider volunteering with a non-profit organization, taking on sales-oriented responsibilities (e.g. spearheading fundraising, or securing sponsorships). This will give you a chance to sample opportunities without risk. Or, seek out commission-only sales positions to see what aspects you like. Such initiatives will also help you stand out in the crowd to potential employers.
The net takeaway: Don’t stop looking until you find your passion. Outside of work, what do you love to do personally (e.g. hobbies, activities with friends and family)? Often, the best possible careers lie in between personal passions. Look for hints within your life to discover your ultimate career.
Last but not least, seek out support from experts to stay motivated. There are many resources out there. Here are a few to get you started: Psychometrics Canada offers online career assessments; Career Joy offers a coaching program specifically for people who are unhappy in their current careers; and Challenge Factory lets people test-drive potential careers in the real world, with job shadowing “day-in-the-life-of” experiences.
Best of luck for your new career!