• Sadaf

How do you really know what you want to do?

My journey to discovering my passion

Working for myself was always a distant fantasy - an unattainable dream reserved for those with privilege, disposable income and great connections. I... well, let’s be honest, felt that I lacked all of those things. I was convinced that I was destined for a life of middle management, office politics, and the most terrifying of all - s

But, I had time, and after lying in the sun reading Brene Brown and the late anthropologist David Graeber, I decided it was now or never - I needed to seize the day and just do it. So, I quit my job and started working for myself.

Wait, there's a step in between

I consider myself a bit of a Polymath (basically someone who knows a lot about a lot of stuff) but conventional working environments favour specialists as opposed to generalists. I’ve been in countless situations/meetings where people have reminded me that something is “above my paygrade” or “beyond the scope of my role” even if it meant that things didn’t get done or were being done inefficiently. Excuse me, what?

So, when it came to working for myself, I needed to think beyond conventional job titles and focus on my skills and experience. Easy! Well, not quite. I’ve done A LOT of jobs. Retail, working as an oral history interviewer, developing behavioural change strategies, and running trade press for a children’s reading scheme. Traditionally, all of these roles would be reserved for someone with a single career trajectory (research or monitoring and evaluation, PR, retail management etc.) but what was I supposed to do?

I asked for advice. I was lucky enough to get a mentor who helped me think about what I wanted to do and why. So, here’s Janine’s advice to me:

  1. Take a walk and think about what you want to do every day that would make you happy. What will you happily get out of bed for? Irrespective of whether or not you feel that you have the experience to do it right now.

  2. Think about your values. Who do you want to work with and what do you want to work on? This helped me not sacrifice what was important for me in order to fit into the world of work.

Thinking about what I wanted to do, and my values gave me a sense of what career I saw myself pursuing. For me, understanding people is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Research, reading about how we behave, speaking to people, user testing products or services, and the small joys I get when people’s behaviour doesn’t match what they tell me. I also needed work that was creative. Give me Canva, Figma, please! I had done all of these things before, and they never felt like work, but passions that I was getting paid for.

But there were other things to think of, basically, I needed to feed myself. So, I started to think about money, because money has been a source of frustration in my career (very un-British of me to mention, I know). I thought about the life I wanted to live, and the amount of money I felt I needed to live that life. Although new research suggests that money does correlate to happiness, excess isn’t for me as a person. I just didn’t want to be working full time and worrying about bills.

So, now it’s all plain sailing, right?

Well, no. Knowing what you want to do is great and the first step, but passion will only get you so far. The next step for me (and the next article) was taking these insights and starting to work for myself full time e.g. getting clients, showcasing my work, figuring out how to pay tax and when. Working for yourself isn’t for everyone, but that was my passion and the direction that I chose.

It was also really important for me to remember that my passion now might not be my passion in six months, and that’s ok. Even now, I focus on my vision and values if I’m ever in challenging situations because working for myself means that I need to actively curate my career.

Some other stuff

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