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Forget Passion: Find Your Schtick

Forget Passion: Find Your Schtick

The advice “Follow your passion and the rest will come” has always made me cringe. Perhaps I’m a dream-killer or the mom-who-gives-cucumber-sticks-instead-of-lollipops type of career coach. To me, passion is nothing without the right balance. Whether preparing someone to make their first career move, nail an interview, or land a promotion, I've learned that nothing replaces a good schtick. If you want a rewarding career or productive staff, it starts by defining and channeling value.

Experience working in career coaching has shown me that some people get consumed by passion and lose sight of reality. Conversely, some people focus on reality and lose track of their soul. How do we avoid this?

With a well-thought-out, Hillary-Rodham-Clinton-esque plan, of course. And a good schtick.

My passion is writing. As an English major, I learned about the unfortunate demise many writers met. I realized quickly that I wanted to earn a steady paycheck and the opportunity to buy stuff from the real J. Crew and not just the Factory. While writing never ended up being the passion I followed as a career, my writing skills became the added value I brought to every job. This set me on a path to finding what I'm really good at - helping people find their schtick and communicating effectively in various ways.

Enough about me. How can you find your schtick?

Think about yourself.

I know it seems useless. However, think about how you go through the motions of your day. Even at your most mindful, are you thinking about you? What do you actually like to do? What do you do best? When are you most at ease?

Self-assessment is crucial to finding your schtick and discovering real career fulfillment.

Write (or type) it down.

Even if you're on the subway, start writing down skills, interests, and values. Getting ideas out of your head is crucial in making sense of them. Try to arrange things in order of priority to better refine your next steps. Send yourself mental notes via voice memo.

I might look like a crazy person talking to myself into my headphones as I walk down the street, but it helps me keep track of my thought processes in the midst of the crazy day-to-day.

[Related: Best Tech for Flexible Work Schedules and Telecommuting]

Evaluate your current job.

What do you like? What don’t you like? Is the company great but the job just meh? Consider all of these factors and think about if there is another job out there that might be a better fit.

Life’s too short for meh. We need to find work that “gets” us. If you could get an outfit perfectly tailored to you free of charge, you would. May as well try to put the effort into finding the job that’s the perfect fit. It costs you nothing to try.

[Related: What if Work... Worked? Four Secrets to Help Make it Happen]

Talk to people.

Yes, actually talk to them. Identify folks in jobs that seem interesting to you. Start on the internet by sending emails to contacts or former supervisors. I even encourage some light internet stalking (I mean researching) via LinkedIn. Set something up. Grab coffee. Ask them questions about themselves.

Clients are always terrified of reaching out to people for a quick coffee chat. I get it. It’s transparent, and people are going to know you want their help and insight. Who cares? I often ask a timid networker what they would do if they were on the receiving end of the email. Would they help the person? Only one person ever said "no." She was a jerk.

The truth is, most people do want to help other people. Send the email. Pay for their coffee.

[Related: Stop Hiding. Here's How to Get in the Mood to Network]


As the founder of Schtick, Heather Tranen helps the pragmatically passionate find their schtick and make stuff happen. She believes that finding a meaningful career goes beyond blindly following passion. It takes hard work, introspection, and a little dose of reality. She partners with individuals and companies to help people discover and channel their value.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.