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find calling


By Joy Molan & Emily Parker


You’ve decided to quit your job. Now comes the exciting part.

This is the second installment of our quarterlife career change series, created in paid partnership with TalentPool, the new way to hire and get hired. Read the first piece on how to quit your grad job, here.

"What is my calling in life?” is a question most of us quarterlifers have been asking ourselves since the first time we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. This question long asked of us is particularly painful in our 20s, when most of us are just desperate to get a job that pays the bills. But it doesn’t have to be this way.


When we asked on our Instagram, 55 per cent of you said you reject the notion that there’s only one path in life that can make us happy. 


In our dating lives we’re made to believe we need to find “the one”, just like we’re told from a young age to look for our calling in our working lives. Unlearning this pressure frees us up from the belief that there’s a finish point we’re seemingly miles off reaching. As Michelle Obama writes in her memoir Becoming, “I think it's one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child — What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that's the end.”.


So, how do we create more happiness in our working lives while accepting that finding the “Mr Right” of jobs is a myth?


The issue with rejecting the notion of a “calling” and making peace with the fact that all jobs have their good and bad points, is that we risk putting up with jobs that make us unhappy for too long. When we asked you in a poll, 85 per cent of you told us that you’re doing a job you don’t enjoy. As much as we shouldn’t lump ourselves with the unrealistic expectation of finding “the one”, the answer is not to simply settle. 

What if, just as we have multiple potential matches in the dating world, we also have many potential matches in the career world, and we just have to find them?

What Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why and The School of Life’s A Job to Love demonstrate is that half the battle is working out what those potential matches are, by working out where your own strengths and passions lie. But a question almost as annoying as “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is “what is your passion?”. Or, in even more David Brent language, “what makes you tick?”


Both questions, seemingly innocuous, can fill those of us who don't have a bloody clue what our passion is with total dread and a sense of deep failure.


Having spent the past few years in search of our own answers to those very questions, and having spoken to lots of people who have been doing the same, here are the seven most resonant and encouraging bits of wisdom we have picked up along the way.


1. Start with your childhood.
As A Job to Love by The School of Life says, the answer to the passion question is often rooted in childhood. Calling our childhoods “storehouse[s] of incidental career insights", The School of Life says we should look to things we enjoyed as a child to illuminate aspects of our personality. Whether it was Lego-building, taking charge of make believe games or painstakingly lining up your toys in neat rows, these aspects of play reveal what we innately gravitate towards, what we are most likely to enjoy and where our individual strengths are.

2. Reach out to people you wouldn’t have dreamed of reaching out to.
If there’s someone whose career seems like a total pipe dream - perhaps someone really high up a huge company you’d love to work for or a prolific figure who has built a business from the ground up or maybe even someone who’s made a name for themselves in the entertainment world - reach out to them. No matter how outlandish and unlikely it seems that they’ll reply, there’s no harm in it. Think big when choosing people to contact. 


There’s nothing more exciting and encouraging than receiving a helpful response from someone you admire who’s literally doing your dream job. Ask these people what their day-to-day looks like and, if that still sounds like your perfect like, question them on how they got to where they are, and what experience gaps they think you’ll need to work on filling in the next few years if you want to get to where they are. You never know, you might land a coffee meeting or even some work experience with them.

3. Look out for the buzz of excitement when your read the job spec.
The best way to find the right section of the jobs market for you is to read job spec after job spec and see which ones make you feel most excited. We spoke to George Sheehan, who used TalentPool, the matchmaking service that matches candidates with jobshe said of his experience moving careers in his 20s that, “I knew it was time to move when I read the ad on TalentPool, I felt so excited that I knew deep down that this is the perfect job for me”. Sometimes reading a job spec that calls out to you on that level can feel a bit like meeting a person you know instantly you have a connection with. It might take this for you to realise what you are missing in your current role or setup.

4. Take the pain out of the process with a good job site.
Researching and applying for jobs can be tedious, time-consuming and tiring. Perhaps this is why 87 percent of us are open to new opportunities, but as little as 47 per cent of us are actively looking for a new role. Seeking out recruitment websites with great blogs that will inspire you and spark your imagination can help keep the process fun and light, and using platforms like TalentPool that aim to take the pain out of the process by matching you with jobs that are right for you can relieve you of a little of the burden.

5. Don’t write anything off as out of your league.
No matter how old you are, what degree you have, what experience you have or don’t have, and what skills you might think you lack, absolutely anything is possible, particularly when you’re in your 20s. With decades left to build on our careers, nothing is off the table. Sometimes we can be put off from trying for something we know would make us truly excited to get out of bed every morning because it feels so unattainable.


Perhaps we’d have to start from square one or take a big pay cut or maybe even move location to make the change. Whilst these aren’t always easy decisions to make, if they would take us closer to doing what we really want to be doing, the hardest bit is making that difficult decision. George Shaheen tells us about his experience of the process of changing careers using TalentPool: “the transition was exhilarating. I was excited every step of the way”.

6. Write everything down.
The way we talk about careers and callings in culture makes them sound like they should be totally obvious to us, and yet finding a job you love can be one of the most difficult and confusing processes you go through on your journey through life. It is often way more than half of the battle. But it can also be one of the most rewarding and life-changing processes. Write everything down, from the things you enjoy about your job, to the things you don’t feel you get from it, and even the things you love about your hobbies. This can make everything feel so much clearer and more comprehensible. What we want is often clearer to us when written down in front of us in black and white. For more advice on whether you should quit your current job, check out the first article in this series, How to swap your grad job your for dream career.

7. Don’t expect everything to come from one job.
Careers are what you do, not who you are. When our parents were our age, they identified themselves by the jobs they did. They got onto one career path and stuck to it, and that became who they were. That’s no longer the case. Most quarterlifers today will do many different jobs across the course of their careers, and sometimes will do multiple things at once. Some things might make us the money we need to survive, whilst others might make us no money but bring us fulfilment in spades, but the important point is that they can all come together to make up what we “do”. We’re not defined, or limited, by any one single job we’re doing at any given time, and that's got to take the pressure off a little. Happy soul-searching!


The next piece in our career change series will focus on how to land your dream job. Look out for it next Monday, and feel free to set up a TalentPool profile here, even if it’s just because you’re curious to see which roles you get matched up with.


This article was created in paid partnership with TalentPool, the new way to hire and get hiredDISCLAIMER: We use affiliate links.

Image by Emily Parker.

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