Job Hunting? Follow Your Passions

Identifying the sources of your passion can help you set your sites on the right job and give you a narrative that captivates interviewers

The recession may have been officially declared over, but that hasn't changed the relentless job hunt for millions of workers who fell victim to the rash of corporate downsizings over the last 12 months. Most job seekers who have been at it for a while have completed the usual checklist of actions for landing a new position: networking with friends, family members, and former colleagues; preparing a great résumé and cover letter detailing skills and experience; and staying vigilant about making connections on social-networking and jobs Web sites.

They are pursuing every viable lead and interviewing as often as possible, hoping for that breakthrough opportunity. If you're among the many for whom finding a new job has become a full-time occupation, what might you be missing? What's the one opportunity you're letting slip away? If you're not factoring your passions into your job search, it's time to start now.

Being unemployed is certainly no picnic, but it does present an opening for reflecting and designing your best future. Rather than pursuing a new position merely because it resembles your former job, take time to consider your deep internal drivers, so you can find a role that's an outlet for all of your best qualities. Make the more than 84,000 hours of your life that will be spent on the job both fulfilling and meaningful by pinpointing work aligned with your specific passions.

We've conducted extensive research and testing to identify and define 10 types of work-related passions. We call them "Passion Archetypes." These can now be measured using an online tool called The Passion Profiler™ and are described in detail in The Purpose Linked Organization (which also offers book purchasers complimentary access to the tool). Which of the following archetypes might best describe you and guide you in your career pursuits?

The Creator: With a passion for the aesthetic, Creators work tirelessly to transform a concept they hold in their minds into a form that can be shared with others and evoke emotion. These are the artisans of the organization. They manifest their passions by seeking beauty, form, or functionality in whatever they develop.

The Conceiver: Big-picture thinkers who focus on the outside-the-box solution, Conceivers enjoy playing in the space of new and often revolutionary ideas. They are the intellectual acrobats of the organization, the ones others work hard to keep up with. They are rare and valuable innovators.

The Discoverer: Sure that every problem or riddle has a solution, Discoverers enjoy lifting up every rock to determine what's underneath and will relentlessly design experiments to test their theories until they determine the truth. They are the explorers of the organization.

The Processor: An archetype that thrives on data and information, the Processor is at home in the world of analysis. Processors often uncover information that prevents the organization from stepping into land mines, while maintaining a steady focus on quality. They are the system stewards of the organization.

The Teacher: These are the knowledge promoters of the organization who enjoy developing others. They are also passionate learners who willingly share new information and insights with their colleagues. Teachers can be relied upon to translate knowledge in ways that make it understandable to others.

The Connector: Consummate communicators and negotiators, Connectors can be counted on to form and nurture relationships. They are invaluable resources when common ground is needed to resolve problems. These are the bridge builders of the organization.

The Healer: Often the ones to first notice dysfunction, Healers will help others in the organization navigate through pain to a find a better place. They take personal responsibility for helping others deal with their difficulties and can frequently be found working behind the scenes to create a positive workplace culture.

The Altruist: This archetype often acts as the moral compass of the organization and will work passionately to serve the higher good. Altruists will challenge the organization to look beyond profit and contribute to the broader community and society as a whole. They encourage the organization to "do well while doing good."

The Transformer: These are the passionate change agents of the organization. They help others embrace a new direction or vision. Transformers thrive in chaos and ambiguity and will rarely wait for change to happen. Instead, they will orchestrate it, always seeking out new possibilities.

The Builder: As the architects of the organization, Builders thrive with an ambitious goal and a flat landscape on which to construct their vision. They are excellent at building new business in unchartered territory or "boldly going where no one has gone before." Builders will develop the blueprint for the organization's success, but they require immense freedom to deliver results—on which their eyes remain clearly and unerringly focused.

Understanding your unique passions offers a new and more complete language with which to describe yourself to prospective employers. I recommend incorporating a description of your passions in a compelling and well-written cover letter or résum&eacute: detailing the impact those passions have had on achieving results. It will help your application stand out among the hundreds of others under review. It's also important to examine each potential new position for the opportunities it might provide for using your passions to enhance results in a way that skills alone can't deliver. During the interview process, ask questions that will allow you to discover how both your skills and passions might be applied in the job.

In situational questions, where the interviewer may ask how you've successfully applied your skills in past positions, find ways to weave your passions into responses. Highlight how your skills have led to results, of course, but remember to reveal how your passions have provided an edge.

In my former years as an HR executive, I interviewed thousands of job candidates. Individuals who were both skilled and passionate about the work and the organization consistently impressed me. Their enthusiasm was infectious, so much so that at times I felt compelled to hire individuals and then later find the right position for them. They were just too good to let slip by.

In this highly competitive job market, having the right skills will get your foot in the door. Adding genuine passion to the mix will earn you a well-deserved seat at the table. Finding a job is a major marketing effort with you as the centerpiece, so remember that passion sells!