Passion has become the new buzzword in business. Are you passionate in your career? Do you wake up every morning enthusiastic and passionate, happy to go to work? Or do you drag yourself out of bed reluctantly and struggle through each day just waiting for the weekend?
As a business writer for U.S. 1 and other publications I have interviewed hundreds of business people in the last few years. I’ve also met hundreds more at a variety of business events, from seminars and trade shows to networking lunches and dinners. It is often easy to pick out the people who are passionate about what they do. Their enthusiasm for their work shines through when they speak.
The opposite is also true. It is easy to spot the people who don’t have passion for their work; they are unenthusiastic, apathetic, bored, and often boring to talk to.
While “passion” may become as much a cliche as the phrase “Think outside the box,” or “synergy,” I believe the question “What makes people passionate about their work?” still has value. Is there some innate quality born in certain people that helps them to stay enthusiastic? Or is it a skill that can be learned? If a person has lost his or her passion are there steps that can be taken to regain that sense of enthusiasm?
As I became interested in the topic I found myself questioning people about their passion for their work. I spoke with old friends and new acquaintances. People I met at business events, and even clerks or salespeople who waited on me in a store. Yes, I’ve embarrassed my family a few times when I’ve grabbed a notebook from my purse while at a checkout counter or sitting at a table and interviewed the waitress or clerk on the spot.
After several months of this unofficial research I’ve come up with a few answers. If you’ve lost your passion for your work, if you feel that you are just marking time each day while waiting for the weekend — or retirement — you might want to try a few of these suggestions to regain your passion.
Do something different every day. Some people may feel that this is much easier said than done, that the nature of their jobs is repetition. But I’ve found that doing something different means something different to everyone.
There is repetition in every job. As a writer I can choose to see myself as a person who sits at a computer and types all day, or I can focus on the variety of people that I meet; the fact that I have an opportunity to learn about them and their careers, and that everything I write is different. The sales person can become bogged down by the routine of sales calls, making the same pitch about a product a dozen or more times a day. Or he can focus instead on each individual client, learning about their needs and enjoying the different personalities he deals with. It is all in the eye of the beholder.
If you find the routine aspects of your job are getting you down, shake it up a bit. Try something new. If you’re a salesman, practice a new sales pitch. If you are a teacher, research a new teaching technique. No matter what your job, you can find a way to bring some variety to your day.
Applause, applause. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Bob Alper, a rabbi-turned-comedian who performed at Rider University. Alper bills himself as “the world’s only practicing clergyman doing stand-up comedy intentionally.” His routines can be heard on XM and Sirius radio and he has been seen on Good Morning America and Showtime. Audience appreciation is what keeps him going, he says. But he spends many more hours, and even weeks, in preparation and routine work such as setting up travel arrangements and “sending out E-mails and being ignored,” than he does on stage. It is all worthwhile, however, when he gets up on stage. “As a stand-up comic I get immediate gratification every time the audience laughs at one of my jokes,” he says.
Most of us do not get the immediate feedback of laughter or applause, but we still want to feel appreciated. You don’t always get the thanks you want or feel you deserve from your boss, your employees, or your customers, but you can help others stay passionate by making sure that you applaud the people around you for the work that they do. If you show your appreciation for others they are more likely to remember to show their appreciation for you, and that’s a great way to keep your passion alive.
Helping others. Knowing that the work you do is helping others is another important ingredient in feeling passionate about your job. It can be obvious if you are a social worker, teacher, doctor, or nurse, but helping others is at least a small part of every person’s job.
Helping others find their passion is a passion for Jo Leonard, of Jo Leonard LLC, in Lahaska, Pennsylvania. She helps people age 17 to 27 to choose a college major or career path and works with them and how to present themselves in paper and in person to job recruiters or college admissions officers. “Helping someone to get into college or find their first job is very rewarding,” she says. “A lot of my clients come to me wondering what they should do. I help them to find the thing that makes them light up and help them figure out how to make a living out of it.”
Giving back. For other people, helping others takes the form of giving back to the community. Jennine Arena of Ablaze Communications in Bucks County has found that her philosophy of giving back helps to keep her going, even on those days when she’d really rather be at the beach.
Her business involves a virtual team of project managers, artistic directors, designers, and copywriters. “I’m employing people in several towns and several states. That is one way in which my business is giving back to several communities,” she says. “I have a strong connection with my spiritual side that keeps me passionate in all that I do. I am a big believer that giving goes so much further than getting.”
Arena’s company donates 1 percent of its design fees to Emmanuel Cancer Foundation, an organization that helps families who have children with cancer. “That’s another reason I’m passionate about gathering more business, so we can increase our donations,” she adds.
Work with what you love. Many times we assume that the only people who are passionate about their work have careers that other people see as prestigious — a doctor or lawyer or some type of white collar career. But I recently met one of the most enthusiastic people in any business when I took my car in for repair to NTB in Lawrenceville.
I was greeted at the desk by Josh Fiori, and was impressed with his genuine interest and enthusiasm in helping me. “I love cars. I grew up with cars and I went to school for cars,” he said. In fact one day he hopes to own a shop of his own.
While working with cars everyday is a passion, he says it also takes more than just loving what you do to stay enthusiastic in a business where most people arrive unhappy because they are spending money and time to fix something they depend on every day.
“A happy customer is a person who will come back again and again, “ he said. “I want my customers to be happy. If I walk into a store I want to be greeted with a smiling face and friendly service. I want my customers to have the same thing. I want them to feel welcome. I want everyone who comes in here to be treated the way I want to be treated, or the way I want my family and friends to be treated.”
Never get desperate. In my quest to find out what makes people passionate about their businesses I turned to the most passionate business person I know, Amanda Puppo, of MarketReach in Hightstown.
And Puppo’s business is telephone sales. She “makes the calls you don’t want to make.”
If there is anyone who has the right to feel unenthusiastic, or even downright depressed about her job, it is a person who sits on the phone all day making sales calls. But Puppo is always excited and happy when she talks about her work. She passionately loves a job most of us would hate.
“Never take rejection personally,” she says. “And always try to think that a ‘no’ is not really a ‘no,’ it is just ‘not yet.’” The easiest way to do that, she adds, is to never get desperate.
“If you are desperate for business it is hard to be enthusiastic. Being desperate will make you do things you don’t want to do, take on clients that you don’t want to work with, and lower your prices.” For Puppo, staying passionate about business means always making sure she has business.
“Keep the pipeline full so that if one prospect turns you down you know there are other potential customers to take their place,” she says.
Find what excites you. After talking with everyone I’ve come to the conclusion that while finding a job that is exciting can help many people to feel energetic, excited, and passionate about their career, the real trick is to find what excites you about your job.
The common thread that everyone I spoke with mentioned is this: In some way, they feel that their job matters and that what they do helps others.
Karen Hodges Miller is a professional writing coach and freelance contributor to several publications, including U.S. 1. She owns Open Door Publications, a writing and editorial services firm in Lawrence, and can be reached at www.opendoorpublications.com.