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THE QUESTION

I've worked as a teacher, in the film industry, financial planning, social services, and now as a software tester. I do well in roles but get bored and want to try something different. The problem is, at 44, I haven't found my calling. I've taken career tests and talked to counsellors but the results point in different directions. I don't want to keep switching jobs and doom myself to a lifetime of entry-level employment. Do I keep searching for a job I love, or stick with my current job even though I don't like it? After all, isn't quiet desperation the norm?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Peter Caven

Managing director of Launched, Toronto

Twenty-plus years of quiet desperation is an unacceptable fate – find the job you love.

Conventional career wisdom is "follow your passion." Unfortunately, most people don't know what their passion is and the whole process stops before it starts.

Finding one's passion can be a complicated path and cannot be determined in the abstract – experience is a mandatory part of the process. Research has shown that the people who most enjoy what they do are those who become good at it over time.

Self-determination theory (SDT) tells us that motivation in the workplace is determined by:

  • Autonomy (the feeling that you have control over your day 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).

Skill is the driver of these three and it becomes a virtuous circle – the higher the skill level, the higher the levels of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Reflect on the jobs you have had and identify the skills required in each. Identify the skills that, when exercised, put you in "the zone" – you were fully absorbed and focused, time stood still and you were energized. Identify roles that require those skills and leverage your skills to get those jobs. Dive into the virtuous circle and feel your passion grow.

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THE SECOND ANSWER

Zuleika Sgro

Director of people, Saje Natural Wellness, Vancouver

Having a passion and alignment to your work is something that can make a large impact in your life, your wellness and your sense of purpose.

You have held positions in dynamic roles and gained valuable skills. While you haven't yet felt aligned completely with any role, take some time to reflect on your highlights from each position, and also identify your areas of least interest.

Then look for highlights in common, and challenge yourself to make these areas a focus in your existing company or role. Look for an internal transfer, or ask for more responsibility.

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You may find a job you love by staying with an organization that you align with, in terms of values. While there will be challenges posed by tasks or projects you may not always like, look at these as growth opportunities in which to channel your areas of interest.

There is great experience gained when you are able to experience change within a company you feel attached to, and also great connections with your co-workers.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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