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Forget Passion...For a While

By Marty Nemko

We’ve been sold a bill of goods: “Do what you love and the money will follow!” “Find your career passion!”

But what if hordes of people are passionate about what you’re passionate about? For example, it seems like half the people in the Bay Area would like a career in the arts or with a nonprofit. If you pursue such a career, unless you’re a star, you probably won’t be able to find a job.

Or if do, you may well be underpaid and/or be treated badly—many employers figure, if only subconsciously, “A zillion people would want your job so I needn’t worry much about underpaying and overworking you, or about giving you less-than-meaningful work.” Even if you were passionate about the Save the Mountain Foundation, mightn’t you hate working there if the only mountain you ever saw on the job was your mountain of paperwork?

Having worked with over 1,000 career seekers, I’ve found that career happiness rarely comes from figuring out what you love and doing it for your career. Fine, spend a month trying to figure out if there’s something you love that you’re confident will pay the bills. If, however, nothing comes to mind, you’re more likely to end up loving your job if you forget about passion for a while and use these three job search methods:

1. Ask everyone you know (from your weird uncle to your old professor to your cool colleagues to the fools you used to party with) if they know someone who might need a person who (Insert your one, two or three best abilities/skills.)

2. Answer want ads for which you are truly qualified. If you’re missing key requirements, don’t waste your time applying. If the employer were willing to hire someone without the qualifications, he probably wouldn’t have sprung for an ad; he’d have hired his cousin.

3. Identify one or more fields in which plenty of hiring is going on. Examples:

§ Commercial security

§ Non-profit fundraising

§ Health care, including administrative and management positions

§ Premier online services, for example, EBay, Yahoo, or Google.

§ Law enforcement, for example, police, sheriff, Homeland Security, CHP, prisons.

§ Sales, for example: for private colleges and trade schools, financial service firms such as Edward Jones, or selling advertising.

§ Low-priced, growing restaurant chains such as Pasta Pomodoro and Starbucks.

And don’t nix such companies because, for example, you don’t want to serve coffee. Starbucks, like most companies, employs everyone from accountants to PR people to, yes, people who ask, “Would you like that mocha decaf latte to-go?”

An easy way to see who’s hiring: Just turn the to the next pages of this section of the newspaper and note the employers that are advertising multiple openings. Even if you’re not qualified for the advertised jobs, email any of those employers you could imagine working for. Explain what you bring to the table, and why, if you’re so good, you’re looking for work. Follow up a few days later with a phone call. Try to create enough chemistry that the employer will create a job for you or give you the inside track on an upcoming position.

The above technique will work mainly with employers advertising for more than one opening. Such employers are more likely to be in growth mode and willing to talk with you even if you’re not a precise fit.

Follow the above procedure for a month or two and chances are, you’ll get multiple job offers. That will give you the opportunity to pick one offering interesting work, a good boss and coworkers, a reasonable commute, and decent pay. If you’re like most people, that is the most likely path to finding a career that will make you happy.

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