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Follow Your Heart: Girl on Top

I’ve been having a love affair for the past seven years. On some days this love of mine seriously drives me to drink but I never seem to tire of it. It inspires me to be bigger and better than I -really am. It’s broken my heart and I’ve felt utter disappointment, but I never want to leave. It’s simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. It continually exposes me to brilliant, outrageous, and engaging people and circumstances. And for good or for bad, it’s always waiting.

My true love … ​my career.

Having grown up watching my mom hate her job, I have an admittedly obsessive drive to love what I do (and by extension help others get there, too). And while on some days I question whether I’m a wee bit code-pen-dent, I never, ever doubt the power of following your heart. 

Finding the Love of Your Life
It’s the hands-down, number one question I’m asked:

How do I find a career I love?

It comes from women new to the game, those slogging it out for way too many years in the wrong career, or even those who are relatively satisfied but wondering if there might be something more.

Some -people search their whole lives and never find a career they love, some fall into love on day one and are committed for life, and still others fall in love over and over again. I’ve come to believe that just like in our relationships, loving your career has a lot to do with expectations—ultimately you get the love (and the career) you think you deserve.

You can sit wherever you want on the love-your-job spectrum, but please know that at the end of the day (which in the majority of cases is somewhere between eight and twelve hours), you’re spending 70 percent of your waking life working and that’s simply too much life to waste wishing the hours away. What’s ludicrous from my perch is sitting around, wasting your potential, and never experiencing or sharing the love. If you haven’t found the love of your life or if you’re still considering other options, here are some places to look.

An Arranged Marriage
Your mom’s a doctor. Your mom’s dad is a doctor. His father was a doctor. Not necessarily a bad thing to consider a hand-me-down career with an already established client list and sign on the door. Your passion may very well be found in the genes.

Love at First Sight
It’s hard to believe but some -people come out of the womb knowing they were meant to be a photographer … ​chef … ​florist. This “knowing” is generally some combination of observation (that looks fun) and instinct (that flower would be perfect right … ​there). Take a look around. The love of your life may be right in front of your eyes.

Play the Field
The downright best way to increase your odds is by getting out there and exploring your options. I meet a lot of women who think (a) their dream career will magically appear without any effort (it won’t), and (b) their first choice is the best and only option (it’s not). Same way you wouldn’t expect to marry the first and only guy you ever dated, your long-term career relationship isn’t likely to come on the first go-round.

Bring Back the Love
It can happen to the best of relationships. Six weeks, six months, six years down the road, the passion is gone and we find ourselves griping: “I fell in love with this?” For me it happens at least once a year, usually when I’m jetlagged, brain-dead, and ready for a drink. I find myself second-guessing my commitment and asking, “Is this really how I want to spend the rest of my life?” That’s when I know I need to bring back the love.

Using the same formulas for spicing up your love life, you can rekindle the passion for your work and actually start falling in love with your job all over again.

Go Back to the Way Things Were
It’s inevitable that the thing you initially loved most about your job is what ends up being the thing you hate. So you wanted autonomy—well you got it … ​and now you can’t motivate yourself to get the work done. Or you loved the responsibility … ​but now you’ve got so much to do you can’t breathe. We get so caught up in the day-to-day business that we forget why we took this on, and who and what about it is meaningful. Admit that you can’t do this all on your own, ask for help where you need it, and delegate what you’re simply not that great at, and the layers will peel back to reveal what it was that enticed you about this role in the first place.

Make Time for Each Other
When you’re so busy flying from task to task that you don’t take the time to enjoy what you do, the flame is bound to fizzle. Steal moments of quiet time with the door closed or headphones on (rent a room if you must) so you can really focus. Forget multitasking—concentrate on crossing off one item from your to-do list at a time, and give it your full attention so you can crank out your best work.

Take a Reality Check
Just like we catch ourselves fantasizing about the hot lifeguard or the strapping fireman in uniform, we have a tendency to wonder if we’d be happier with a different job. What you wouldn’t give for a more flexible schedule, better benefits, an office with a no-ass policy … ​The reality is that -everyone doesn’t like something about her job (except for those who haven’t been there long enough for the new-love glow to wear off). Talk with others in your industry at different companies, and you’ll probably discover you don’t have it as bad as you thought. Take comfort in their anguish (secretly, of course) and be grateful for the positive aspects of your position. The truth is the grass is always greener no matter where you stand, but you can at least switch up your vantage point. Find an opportunity to challenge yourself, to learn about a different aspect of the business, or to give up the “boss” title for a day—and bring the passion back with a newfound appreciation.

Get Yours
Give, give, give. When you’re in constant “give mode,” burnout comes on full speed. If your career feels like a one-way street, take stock of what you’re getting out of the hours you’re slogging. You’re learning a ton, your skills are improving, you can afford the rent, and you actually like a few of your colleagues. If you’re still feeling cheated, make sure your boss is aware of how you’d prefer to be rewarded for your hard work. (Do you want recognition? To be included in more meetings? A bonus?) Name your need. Just be sure to frame it in terms of all you’re giving in order to be so deserving (demonstration and examples work wonders). The worst they can say is “no,” which every smart girl knows just means “not now.”

This excerpt is from
GIRL ON TOP by Nicole Williams