Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories here.

Recent grads are frequently told to "follow their passion." Unfortunately, this is very bad, and wrong, advice.

Developmental psychology says that we do not really have a clear understanding of ourselves until we are in our thirties. How can you expect to figure out your passion when you are not yet who you will become?

Story continues below advertisement

Research indicates that only about 4 per cent of university grads have any "passion" that is career-related and actionable. A Canadian psychologist surveyed 600 university students and found that 84 per cent had a passion. However, those included dance, hockey, skiing, reading and swimming – not very helpful unless your name is Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sydney Crosby or Penny Oleksiak.

Passion is not developed in the abstract; you are not going to have an epiphany and suddenly discover your passion. You will find your passion as you develop your career; it is a process. A thoughtful approach will start you down the right path. The key is to follow Nike's adage: "Just Do It." Get out there, get experience and learn from it.

Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor of organizational psychology at Yale University, identified three classifications of work in her research:

  • Job – a way to pay the bills
  • Career – a path to increasingly better work
  • Calling – work that is important to an individual’s life and a vital part of their identity.

In her research, Wrzesniewski found that the strongest predictor of people seeing their work as a 'calling' was the length of time they had been doing it. Her conclusion was that the happiest, most passionate employees were those who had been doing their job the longest. Passion is a derivative, not a driver.

Self-Determination Theory (SDT), which has been around for 40 years and is the best framework for understanding why people enjoy their work, identifies three necessary factors:

  • Autonomy – the feeling that you are in control of your work and that your actions are important
  • Competence – the feeling that you are good at what you do
  • Relatedness – the feeling of connection to other people

Note that these three factors relate to skills, that there is no reference to passion and that the factors are unrelated to the type of work being done.

Combining Wrzesniewski's research and SDT theory indicates that skills are the true path to any calling. Using your skills will generate autonomy, competence and relatedness and the better your skills become through practice the higher the level of satisfaction and so on – a virtuous circle.

Story continues below advertisement

So what now?

Now that you have a better understanding of how to find your calling, follow these six steps to uncover your passion.

1. Write a 250-word Work Manifesto: Not a statement of what you want from work, but rather your view of work – what good work ought to be. Address questions like:

  • What is work for?
  • What defines good or worthwhile work?

2. Write a 250-word Life Manifesto – a statement of what matters to you.

  • What do I want to accomplish in my life?
  • How would I know if I have led a good life?

3. Analyze the two manifestos and answer the following questions:

  • Where do they complement each other?
  • Where do they clash?
  • Does one drive the other and how?

This exercise may lead to some refinement of one or both of your Manifestos.

Story continues below advertisement

4. Identify three or four accomplishments when you experienced "flow;" you were completely involved in the activity and had a sense of inner clarity. You knew what to do and how to do it, you were calm, at peace, energized and time stood still.

  • Write the story of each.

5. Analyze those stories to identify the skills you have and enjoy using.

  • What were you actually doing?
  • Where were you doing it, and how did the environment make you feel?
  • Who were you interacting with?
  • What were you interacting with?
  • Who else was there and what role did they play?

6. Identify organizations that are aligned with your Work and Life Manifestos and where your skills will be valued. Target individuals in those organizations with whom to network and reach out to them.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies