Turn Your Passion Into Your Job Hunt Advantage

I love my job. Why? I interview people who love their work for a living.  I interview all sorts of people (CIA spy, hair stylist, bank chairman, nurse, accountant, airport director, animal shelter worker, secretary, beekeeper, you name it, I love it).  I especially love talking with HR leaders.  There’s something very cool about getting these folks to open up and talk from their hearts! (Don’t believe me? Click here and watch all the video clips you have time for. Then come back and watch the rest.)

Anyway, at the end of each interview I give HR folks a little thank-you present, which is an interview question that they can use while talking to job candidates.  Their eyes light up, they smile at all the possibilities that question holds for them, and they always write it down. I’ve never shared it with non-HR folks before now.  But I’m hoping that it will take hold one of these days, and eventually you’ll be asked this question yourself. And you’ll be prepared to answer it. Want to know what it is?  Here goes:

“What dream came true for you when you said ‘yes’ to your last job offer?”

Why do HR folks love this question?  Because it invites candidates to talk about what makes them happy.  From a practical perspective, it tells the recruiters whether the candidates even know what makes them happy and what their dreams are.  Which is really important because happy employees are more likely to volunteer more effort and innovation; they handle stress more smoothly; they’re more likely to have positive friends they can recommend to the company; they’re more productive and they’re even more receptive to learning and creating new products and solutions to problems.

Okay, so that’s why that question is good for HR folks. But what’s in it for you?  Talking passionately about your passion gives you the chance to show people how fantastic you are.

Your passion is your differentiating factor.  It’s that light in your eye. That broadening smile.  That shift in your self-consciousness where laughter comes more easily. That moment in the interview where you forget your nervousness and you talk about that wonderful thing that makes life good. Your passion will make your interviewer like you. (Unless the interviewer is a jaded sourpuss and who wants to work with a person like that anyway?)

It’s much better to let your job search (and job interview) be driven from your passion instead of your need.  Whether you’re in a job interview or just enduring your days of search, remembering your passion will give you something positive and powerful to focus on.  And you’ll be a stand-out interview in the bargain!

Here’s how:

Let your passion drive your story. When you get that dreaded question, “So tell me about yourself,” frame your answer in the context of the passion you have for your profession, your industry, your product, your customers, whatever it is that keeps your heart’s pilot light lit. Talk about how you discovered this line of work, what you’ve learned about yourself along the way, the satisfaction it gives you to live out the dream of being with people with the same values and standards.

If you’re at the managerial level, be sure to talk about your passion in terms of leading others to similar standards through mutual respect, love for the mission and your commitment to grooming and inspiring talent.

Let your passion be your engine for staying up to date with what and who is important in your field of dreams. Even when you’re enduring those between-jobs gut-clenching bouts of anxiety – or maybe especially during those times – focus your mind on learning more about the profession, cause or industry that excites your imagination.  Study product catalogs and reviews of the companies you’d love to work for (and their competition); read up on the issues; prowl LinkedIn for the names of executives inside your target companies. Write to them about something specific that you know they’d be interested in.  (My all-time favorite job-landing stories involves my brother who wrote an admiring letter to the executive director of an organization he deeply respected. One month later: He was working there. Twelve years later: He’s still there – a happy guy doing what he loves.)

Let your passion get you out of the house.  Okay, so you don’t have any interviews lined up this week. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have anywhere to go.  How can you donate the expertise behind your passion to benefit organizations that might not be able to afford your services on a full-time basis?  Almost anything you have done for pay (or want to do for pay) can be donated to a cause that’s important to you. This can be especially valuable to you as recruiters are showing reluctance to consider people who’ve been out of work for a while (short-sighted, if you ask me). Having current experience where you’ve been active, current and in demand will demonstrate to recruiters that you are committed to your profession or cause, motivated by more than just a paycheck.

Always try to look your best but don’t let looking your worst stop you from sharing your passion.  My second all-time favorite job-landing story appears in my book Unlock the Hidden Job Market. After taking part in a rough-and-tumble ocean swim (think rugby in the water), a CFO between jobs climbs out of the San Diego Bay all bloody, snotty, and dressed for speed rather than success, if you get my drift.  He’s standing there in the sand, shaking the water out of his ears, and whom should he meet?  A CEO looking for a CFO.  He got the job.  Not right then and there, mind you. But he did get the interview right then and there, which ultimately got him the job.

Consider new ways your passion helps companies grow their business.  How often do you look at the landscape of your expertise and ask yourself:  “What new ways can I use my special skills and energy to serve the changing needs of my profession (or business)?” You might have outgrown your original passion or have developed it in such a way that you can bring it to market in so many different uses. For instance,  when I got into this people-who-love-their-work thing, I was happy collecting their success stories to give other people hope and ideas for turning their passion into a livelihood too.   Since then I’ve discovered that people who love their jobs are invaluable — but often overlooked — internal consultants. And now I help companies achieve their strategic objectives by interviewing these passionate employees for their operational advice and wisdom.  The pay is much better, let me tell you!

Come to the interviews armed with a story of how your passion serves – or can serve – your customer in some way. Some recruiters care that you’re passionate about your life’s work. But all recruiters want to know, “what can you do for my company?” Just coming to work with a smile on your face is probably not going to be enough.  Understand how your passion serves the strategic needs of the business.  Think about your role through the eyes of your prospective boss, or the person who has okay’d the job opening and the salary attached to it.  It’s quite an investment of resources, time, space and hope to create the job where you’ll fit in just right. What business advantages does your passion serve the company?  If you’re drawing a blank, take that question to your peers or people who already have the kind of job you want. Use that question as a networking tool.

You must remember that businesses are not in business to make your dreams come true, they’re in business to make money, serve their stakeholders, etc. – preferably with a product or service that makes wallets fling open and money fly out. So it will always be up to you to understand fully how your heart fits into their business model.

It will.  You just have to figure out how.  But since it involves thinking about your passion, that’s got to be a good thing, right?

It’ll be worth it. When you can talk about your passion from the point of view of business needs or organizational objectives, you’ll be unforgettable!

Do you have a Kindle or Kindle reader app? If so, you’re in luck! My new ebook, Money With Meaning: 42 Practical Ways to Discover Your Calling and Land Your Dream Job Now, is available now for $4.99 on Amazon! Click here to read about 14 fascinating people who found a way to pack passion with their paycheck and how you can do it too!


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3 Responses to Turn Your Passion Into Your Job Hunt Advantage

  1. Rich Llewellyn says:

    Great motivational article on being passionate about what you like to do. Good timing on it – I’m preparing for an interview, and will now rework some answers to show how much I like doing the work.

  2. This article resonated with me such that I felt a thump, thump, thump as I read it. I have always maintained that interviewing is equal parts conversation and storytelling!

    In responding to an interviewer’s questions candidates get the chance to paint a clear professional portrait when talking about their experience, challenges, goals and dreams.

    Candidate assessment is truly an intuitive process, and a capable ‘recruiter’ is able to recognize that solid performance and contribution of discretionary effort lie where passion and enthusiasm intersect. Passion begets motivation and creativity, and these two beget rock solid contribution.

    Prospects who can convey passion while responding thoughtfully to the question you shared have a clear advantage — they are positioned to make the case (convincingly) for inviting them into the organization.

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