Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Where’s the Passion?

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, the average person (I assume: American) will make more than three career changes during the span of his/her working life.

So. Here you are, wondering where the passion went, why your job doesn’t satisfy you the way it used to, why you can’t get yourself to apply for that management job or talk to somebody about moving to marketing. You’re a well-loved star (or not), and for the last two performance reviews have being lying about your career goals… Under “Career Goal: ______”, you have written “Improve individual competencies and gain further job experience in order to develop professionally within the track to a future leadership role”. Translation: “Just let me seat on this job for a little longer. I really don’t want to manage a financial planning group and be the center of a horrifying, blood-sucking, corporate budget process.”

The clock is ticking. Soon, people will start wondering why you haven’t been promoted. Are you not good enough? They don’t know yet that the true passion of your life is not to create shareholder value. Some people do have that passion, for instance: majority shareholders. The truth is that you don’t even know what your real passion is. You sure would love to work towards a goal. And yet, almost every morning you find yourself delaying the walk to the shower by plotting domestic tragedies and diseases you can use as an excuse for taking the day off… Of course, you already got food poison last week. Too suspicious to eat a rotten burrito again… How can you really get out?… And more importantly: WHERE TO GO?

On the fourth anniversary of her first career switch, Professor of Life, Mafe Maria, shares one way to find out…

Are you sure you want out?

Keep your job. Observe your feelings…. You’ve had a couple slow days, and it’s only natural that the lack of fire drills is giving you too much time to think about existential issues and what ever happened to that old crush from high school.

Remain calm next day when you’re assigned to that hush-hush strategic project the whole company depends on… The kind of project that involves several teams of experts and fast-trackers, and forces you to sign a non-disclosure agreement where you promise that in the middle of orgasm, you won’t spill the beans to your partner about the secret plans of the company, and that strategic idea that has never been tried before.

Breath deeply, and resist the urge to bite ferociously when team meetings begin at 8 am and go on until 6 pm because the team lead is more interested in hearing the sound of his voice than in giving you some time to do your job. You don’t understand jack of what these geeks are saying, but now the whole team depends on your niche expertise to calculate the unit cost of virtual farts. They want to see a “first cut of the numbers” tomorrow morning. The night is young…

Unfortunately your final numbers will conclude that plan B would make farts extremely expensive, and Sunday at 2pm you will get a call at home from the eccentric and narcissistic IT divo who’s been vouching for plan B all along. He will request that you change the financial model NOW because he believes plan B is the way to go. Resist the impulse to yank him through the phone line and scream “I HATE you… and I hate your ASS FACE!”… The CEO, CFO, and CTO have your name on the project’s roster. Although it’s deliciously tempting, you really don’t want to quit your job by walking out waving “the finger” on both hands. That is, if you expect to get a decent reference for your next job, when you’re finally free to run away from this sleepless nightmare.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Once the project is finally done, it’s pretty clear that you do want a new career. You only need to find out which one. Your boss is the nicest guy, and he’ll let you go home as soon as he sees the dark circles around your eyes, and the trembling of your hands. This is your chance to start researching for happy jobs. While you have a fresh memory of the hell project, don’t walk; run to the bookstore and buy:

  1. I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to discover what you really want and how to get it.
  2. Do What You Are: Discover the perfect career for you through the secrets of personality type.
  3. How To Find Your Mission In Life
  4. What Color Is Your Parachute: A practical manual for job-hunters and career-changers.
  5. Making a Life, Making a Living: Reclaiming your purpose and passion in business and in life.
  6. Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A practical guide to creative career design.

Read books 1 through 4. Give book #5 (for those with social empathy) and book #6 (for those who can wait 630 pages to find Zen) to your partner, who’s also miserable at work but hasn’t had the cojones to admit that things won’t fix themselves with time.

Say “Damn you book #2!!!” for telling you that the perfect roles for ISTJ types are accountant, analyst, cost estimator, and law researcher. You know you’re perfect for that, but you HATE IT. Consider you might be on the fence to an INTJ, who the book thinks can be an artist, graphic designer, or architect. All those have always appealed to you, but the lobbying for Engineering was pretty strong at home, and you didn’t know better at 17.

Read book #3. It’s short and has some nice illustrations… If you really can’t wait to know what your mission in life is, skip to page 49 and marvel at the revelation that the purpose of your life is to exercise that particular talent you possess (hint: that one you love to use and that when you use it you lose all sense of time), in those places or settings which appeal to you the most, and for those purposes which will bring more gratitude, more kindness, more forgiveness, more honesty, and more love into this world.

Then, read book#4 (from Richard Bolles, the same author of book#3), and if you truly want to find out which is that job or career that will make you happy and closer to an ideal of meaning and purpose, go through the exercises Mr. Bolles suggests. The answer does exist, but the road to get to your final destination may take some time and effort, and you better know that all that effort has a good chance to lead you to a better place – at least for a while.

Once you identify your favorite skills:

Favorite skills

… Your favorite interests:

Favorite interests

… Your favorite people:

Favorite people

… and a few other things about you and what your little heart desires, Mr. Bolles will send you out there, to talk to people who currently work in your favorite fields. You are supposed to find these strangers and ask them if they know of any careers that combine these three favorite interests of yours.

Of course you’re an ISTJ, with capital “I” for INTROVERT, and the thought of running 10 of these informational interviews and asking people for help is way too much to bear. You can go instead to your best and wisest friend, the internet, and run some searches for “art and computers and esoterism”. Didn’t get anything? Try a new search without the esoteric requirement… VOILA!!! Start a list of fields that make you tickle with excitement: Illustration, web design, multimedia design, computer animation… Finally! Some concrete ideas for what you would like to be when you grow up.

Now take some time to research those careers… What kind of jobs people do? Do those jobs fit your favorite skills? What knowledge do they involve? Do you need new skills? How long will it take to get them? How much will it be? How much is a typical salary? Can you live on that?… All right, so which is the perfect career to go for?

Professor Mafe Maria says that the hardest part of her process was finding out what. Once you know what your passion is, it is very hard not to go for it. And you really can’t fail when you work doing what you love the most, which also happens to be what you’re best at.

. . . . .

This cheesy post is dedicated to Joey, who actually has a calling to work for good causes, and is finally on his way to a second life where he can attempt to do so.