I’ve been on both sides of the interview table many more times than I can count in the last decade. It’s been quite the adventure watching the workplace change and thus, changing the way we recruit and interview candidates for our job openings.
As time went on, I was looking for different qualifications for the same job. I’ve also noticed the shift in career advice that people give overtime. One thing hasn’t changed for me though. The best employees I’ve ever hired and the best bosses who have ever hired me have one thing in common: passion – visible, genuine, whole-hearted passion!
I was recently asked for some career advice. When asked to pick one, and only one, characteristic I would look for in an exceptional employee, I, of course, said, “Passion!” What else, right? Well, the response I received was, “Oh, really? What do you mean by that? What does passion look like? If I had to strive to be more passionate, what would I need to do?”
As you can imagine, I was in completely awe seeing that I think it is the easiest thing in the world to see. However, I took a moment to reflect before I answered the question. In hindsight, it was actually a very good question. What does passion look like?
When I think about the most passionate people I know in the workplace, here’s what I see in them:
- They LOVE, not like, what they do. They believe in their work so much that they enjoy giving their blood, sweat and tears in order to be successful.
- They are so committed to their work, they live in a work-life integration world rather than a work-life balance world. Yet, they’re still happier and have more personal time than everyone else who is on this endless search for balance.
- They always want to improve in what they’re doing. They strive for perfection because they know that if they strive for anything less, they’re diminishing their chances of reaching something better.
- They can convince a stranger to go into their career, industry or company. They sell like no one else because they truly believe in what they do.
- They have bosses who support their passion, employees who share their passion and coworkers who embrace their passion. Everyone wants to work with them.
- They change lives, touch hearts and pay it forward. They’re motives are selfless.
- They’re dreamers AND doers. They never let anyone discourage them from believing that anything is possible. In fact, they never shy away from a challenge and are motivated by accomplishing what everyone else thinks is impossible.
- They would share their knowledge and expertise for free with anyone and everyone who cares enough to take it. They don’t want you to share your money; they want you to share their passion.
- They’re usually not the highest paid person in their department or company because they are not driven by money. They’re driven by values, challenges and people.
- They’re always willing to learn and teach. To them, a closed mind is a huge sin and knowledge hoarding is probably a close second.
- They pick their battles wisely but go for the win when it matters most. They refuse to go down without a fight for what they believe in because they believe that the best things in life are worth fighting for.
- They take smart risks and are not afraid to fail. They like to live life between the dangerous edge and the safe middle. Translation: they’re not going to just jump off a cliff but they know that no positive change can happen from the “comfort zone.”
- They have no problem admitting when they’re wrong and will do everything in their power to pick up the pieces. They’re too invested in what they do to let the same mistake happen twice.
- They are great decision-makers because they always know what they want and they don’t hesitate in expressing it.
- They scare non-believers away because they wear their passion on their sleeves. But, guess what? They don’t care because they would rather be their real self than hide behind a fake persona.
- They thrive when they have independence but struggle under micromanagement. They’re always coming up with new ideas and don’t want to wait for everything to be run up the chain of command before they can experiment.
These are the same characteristics I see in myself when I’m doing something that I’m passionate about. So, that answers the questions of what passion looks like and what it means. Keep in mind though that you cannot force passion, which is why it cannot be taught or practiced. My best career advice is to stop looking for passion in what you already do and rather, look to do something that you are passionate about. All the money in the world can’t buy you happiness but all the passion in the world can. It’s what makes our work worth doing.