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​Are You Pursuing Your Career in Color?

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In 2013, I published a blog post that resonated widely with readers. In "Do You Live Your Life in Color?" I reflected on the passing of two people — one a friend and one a relative — who lived their lives with vigor and passion, never failing to pursue their dreams and ambitions.

I observed that their passion for their work "inspired me to live my professional life as if I would only live it once." Unfortunately, far too many professionals today are simply punching the clock when it comes to their careers. Quite frankly, they are pursuing their professional careers in black and white!

We spend far too much time in the workplace to be content with it simply being the source of a paycheck. While our careers are only one aspect of our lives, we should pursue them with all of the energy, enthusiasm, and desire that we can muster. A career pursued in color provides rewards far beyond the compensation that enables us to live the more critical aspects of our lives.

I addressed this topic at the close of my first book, Lessons Learned on the Audit Trail, when I urged young auditors to approach their work with open minds and positive attitudes.

If you have true passion for the profession, if you cherish your yesterdays and envision bright tomorrows, and if you live every day in full color rather than black and white, I believe you will find internal auditing among the most rewarding jobs on the planet.

I should hasten to say, I offer this advice to people in any field, not just internal auditing. Indeed, I have worked with or encountered thousands of men and women from many different career fields. As I reflect on those who have pursued their careers in color, there are five characteristics common to them that stand out:

They have a career vision. Pursuing a career in color demands a vision — a fully developed, rich, and inspiring guidepost for your professional future. For those who have not taken this important step, I recommend the article "Creating a Career Vision for Your Life: Envisioning Your Ideal Career," by Randall S. Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers. Hansen shares several excellent examples of career vision statements that can serve to inspire those who are struggling with this important step. Some of these examples may come across as overly lofty, but if you want to reach the top of your field, you have to aim high.

Of course, I am under no illusion that running around with our career-vision statements tattooed on our foreheads is the secret to a happy life. Yet, as Lewis Carroll noted, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." I believe that most of us would agree that in the 21st century, a programmed destination and a good GPS make for a much less stressful journey.

They have genuine passion for their work. Whether natural or nurtured, passion for one's work feeds enthusiasm, curiosity, lifelong learning, and other factors that help make careers fulfilling. Having ardor and zeal for what occupies so much of our time can't help but make the ups and downs of daily life more palatable. Passion drives personal growth and innovation. It fuels success. It builds leadership by inspiring those around us. Enthusiasm for your work can be contagious.

They are determined and patient. The partner of passion is determination — the willingness to stick to a goal and not be deterred by temporary setbacks. Coupled with patience, it helps you keep going through the tough times when it would be easy to throw in the towel. It's helpful to remember career success came late to some of the greats, including Charles Darwin, who was 50 when On the Origin of Species was first published, and Julia Child, who was 39 when her first cookbook was published and 51 when she debuted on television as The French Chef. And, as I often joke, I was 50 years old when I finally landed my first job with a Big Four accounting firm!

They are willing to take risks. Career coaches urge young people to find what they love before choosing a career path, but life sometimes gets in the way of that luxury. People who pursue their careers in color may not find their calling before heading into the working world, but they are willing to take risks to pursue their passion when they ultimately determine what it is.

They maintain perspective and balance. While this post is all about nurturing passion for one's vocation, it is not my intention to suggest that life should be all about work. Those who successfully pursue a career in color often also pursue their lives in color. They understand they must strike a balance between work and home, career and family, and occupational demands and personal health.

It is important to identify what you value both in work and in life. Maintaining perspective and balance will help you comfortably intertwine them allowing for a healthy and productive give and take.

Pursuing a career in color isn't easy. It demands focus, determination, hard work, persistence, and the willingness to bounce back from setbacks. Admittedly it is easier to settle for a career in black and white, but I find greater rewards in battling with passion than in surrendering to safety.

In a perfect world, your career would be the intersection of your passion and your skill, but those two do not always coincide. It is in your hands to pursue your career in color and strive for the ideal situation where you do what you love and love what you do.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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