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Graduates: Go Ahead And Do What You Love

It's standard commencement fodder: "Find your passion!” Here at BNET lately, there's been some discussion about whether that's lousy career advice. But is it?
Not at all, says Lara Galinsky, senior vice president at Echoing Green, a social entrepreneurship fund that has invested $30 million in seed funding over the past 25 years in social ventures including Teach for America and The Op-Ed Project.

Galinsky's new book, Work on Purpose, argues that passion is a necessary component for a career that allows your talents to shine. "It's funny to me that there's this tension between doing what you love, and that everything has to be perfect,” she says. "That's not realistic at all.” Building a career is a process, just like building a marriage is a process. "There are bad days even though you love your husband.” But few people think you shouldn't marry someone you love because it's impractical. Likewise with careers.

Of course, figuring out the best path for you isn't easy. "It takes a lot of self-awareness and a certain level of honesty,” says Galinsky. It takes time spent observing yourself and engaging in strategic thinking -- tasks students often jettison in the midst of papers and exams. But there are a few steps you can take.

1. Ask yourself what you wanted to be when you grew up. "There's something innocent and aspirational and bigger than oneself that one has as a young person,” Galinsky says. It often gets chipped away by practical concerns like the need to make money or the pressure to live out other people's dreams, but there still may be clues to your future life. For instance, as a preschooler, Galinsky wanted to be a toll booth operator. Make a list of these jobs, and don't judge.

2. Observe yourself now. We should ask "what moves us, what we're connected to, what brings out emotion in us, what makes us happy, what is fulfilling, when do we lose track of time?” Galinsky suggests. Perhaps the best question: What really ticks you off? Look at your job list in light of these answers. Galinsky realizes she wanted to be a toll booth operator because she thought it meant meeting new people all day long, which sounded like "just the coolest job in the entire world.” Her job with Echoing Green allows her to capitalize on her social nature.

3. Build your team. Learning about all the different career options out there is overwhelming. Seek out people you admire and who want to see you succeed to help you figure out what kind of work you'd like to do.

4. Find your fit. "The good news and the bad news is that there's no one way,” says Galinsky. "You have to make the road by walking on it.” There may not be a perfect organizational fit out there for you, but the career development process is inherently an entrepreneurial process. You figure out what you can offer the world, and why someone might pay you for that. "Life is complex and messy,” says Galinsky, but if you use your head and heart and are willing to hustle, your chances are good.

All careers are difficult. So why not invest the time in finding one you love?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, jameskm03