Do what makes you happy, they say. But what if you don’t know how to turn that into a career? What if you haven’t found your passion and are unsure how to begin? College and career counselors from institutions like Norwich University have advice for the beginner, but what if you’ve read the books, asked the questions, made the lists, shadowed the jobs, had the interviews – and still feel lost? You aren’t alone.

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This generation is unlike any other. We don’t all join the family business. We have more options than we know what to do with. Women are part of the workforce – for better and worse. What if you don’t fit the modern-day-woman mold, and you find yourself wanting more than anything else to be a wife and mother? You then become the target of men and women alike, looked down upon for your beliefs, and it becomes increasingly difficult to find a partner who shares those values (unless you live in a community that welcomes and practices traditional family values). What if you want to dedicate your life to supporting your husband-to-be’s career? What if you discover you don’t enjoy professional criticism or climbing a corporate ladder as you once imagined you would? What makes some people happy drives others to tears and stress beyond imagination- feeling the pressures and physical demands of the working world without the rewards?

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Then you start to feel incompetent because you’re not where you thought you’d be by now. You haven’t lived up to the expectations of those around you and the expectations you have of yourself. You live at home…again! (They don’t call us the Boomerang generation for nothing!).

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You start to feel more and more depressed. You want to have a career, a passion, a life of meaning and purpose, but you have been in and out of jobs for years, and none of them feel right. There’s uncertainty. There’s confusion. The option of higher education doesn’t seem to pay off either- what about the time and money you spent or have to spend? Are you sure it’s what you want to dedicate your life to? Did you calculate the debt you’re going to be in? With accumulative interest rates? All that for a career path you’re not even sure you’ll really love or be able to secure a position in – it doesn’t make much sense anymore, does it?

Then you work jobs that make you feel overworked and undervalued. You like certain aspects of the jobs, but hate many other important elements. You start to think this is not how you want to live your life. You want to stay healthy, have autonomy, be creative, and know you are doing something great and meaningful with your life. Forty hours a week can be exhausting – yet people tell you if you want to build a career, you’ll need to put in fifty plus hours a week. (Don’t they ever get tired?) You’re not lazy- you just want to have a life outside of work. You want a job that gives you flexibility and still have health and a protection for your future and retirement. You want to have enough time to spend on whatever it is you value without feeling completely depleted at the end of each day.

So you look into other options. Should you be a Pilates instructor? A Physical Therapist? A business owner? You research endless options, only to find yourself confused, discouraged, and at a loss.

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Not an easy task, right? I know it’s easy to feel upset and alone, but remember, you’re not the only one facing this crisis, and there is a solution. Keep in mind that not everyone is meant for Corporate America. Not everyone finds happiness in the same way. Not everyone knows what they want to do – and that’s okay. Do what you love without stressing about your career path. Do things that make you happy in general – have a martini! Sit at the beach! Read more books! Have patience, try something new, and eventually it will work out.

Have the faith you need to survive. Listen for a calling – it may come when you least expect it. Have confidence in yourself. Know that making “mistakes” takes you one step closer to what’s right for you. Start a cooking career! Or, you could always be a professional whistler!

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. – Marianne Williamson

About the author

Dr. Mishmish

MBA, MA. Have more fun. Worry less. Laugh more. Be good to yourselves & others. Grow, learn, and develop.

The greatest risk in life is not taking one.

2 Comments

  • I am a member of “Generation X” who tried to “do what I loved” only to have that pursuit blow up in my face.

    I wasn’t able to make a living, my family got in financial trouble, and to get themselves out they sold what was supposed to be my inheritance out from under me and skipped the country on their debts, leaving me with nothing but the clothes on my back, some pieces of old furniture and a used car.

    To survive, I worked various office jobs. I tried the best I could to do the best job I could, but no matter what I did and no matter how hard I tried, I ALWAYS ended up being treated like dirt. Some of the indignities I endured included:

    a. Sexual harassment in the office during business hours (at two previous employers).
    b. Deliberate sabotage of my work by fellow co-workers (at several of my previous employers).
    c. Being hired for a job with the understanding that I would be “trained on the job”, only to end up being fired after someone else that was previously working at the company was getting the training needed to do the job properly (at one previous employer).
    d. Verbal abuse and humiliation in front of both other coworkers and customers (at several of my previous employers).
    e. An employer who bounced my paychecks.
    f. Employers who tried to pressure either me or other coworkers to commit illegal activity on their behalf (at two previous employers that I know of).

    At this point, I am over 40 and long-term unemployed, a demographic that is being openly discriminated against by employers. Even when I was still able to get interviews, I was treated at best with indifference and at worst with open hostility by potential employers. I am broke, and now all of the financial burden in my marriage is on my spouse, who was laid off from a previous job and was forced to accept another job where the salary is a fraction of the previous job and requires my spouse to work nights, which makes neither of us happy.

    I have tried taking online courses to upgrade my skills, but frankly that did not make any difference to potential employers. Their response was generally, “Oh, that’s nice. Next…”

    I suppose what I am trying to say is that it is all well and good to tell people to “do what they love”, but in this economy, there are many of us out there who frankly don’t have that luxury.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful response. The point of this article is to be happy – to do what makes you happy on a day-to-day basis, having no connection to work or career, and that things will work out in one way or another. I’m very sorry to hear about the struggles you have been and are facing. My point is that YOU can still do what you love.

    Perhaps you have a passion for something and haven’t yet found how to turn that into a career. Or, perhaps you don’t know what your passion is – in which case, there’s still nothing stopping you from doing things you enjoy. If you love nature, you can sit at a park and make it your business to sit there every day. You don’t have to pay a penny for that completely liberating experience – and you should do it more often than not. Do you see what I’m saying?

    I hope things turn out better for you. I have faced many of the struggles you talk about, and know there is no easy, simple, solution. If there was, we would all be doing it by now!

    Happy weekend,

    Michelle

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