Here's Why Everyone Needs a Passion Project at Work

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Most people associate "passion" more closely with a secret love affair than they do with work. But I'm a strong believer in bringing passion to every aspect of life, including your career.

No matter what you do for a living – or where you are in your professional journey – I encourage you to find a passion project at work. When you do, you'll feel the thrill of excitement. It might not be as exhilarating as clandestine love, but it's far more productive for your career, I assure you.
The questions answered below will explain what I mean and show you how to effectively use this tool to reignite your professional passion.

1. What is a passion project? A passion project is something that you feel excited about working on but isn't necessarily spelled out in your job description. It's outside of the typical scope, but still aligned with, the big picture objectives of your position. At the very least, a good passion project supports the stated goals and mission of the organization. It's a project that inspires your creativity and sparks a sense of fulfillment. You believe in it and you're willing to do a little extra to make it happen.

A passion project can take all shapes and sizes. Here are a few examples borrowed from former clients of mine:

• Coordinate an interdepartmental event to help build rapport among colleagues.

• Put together a proposal for a large company initiative you feel strongly about.

• Outline some helpful process improvements you believe may solve a few persistent problems.

2. Who benefits from a passion project? A passion project helps you build new skills or hone existing ones. Plus, you can use your creativity, imagination and resourcefulness in all kinds of new ways. Perhaps most importantly, a passion project can be a powerful demonstration of self-motivation. It shows a willingness and ability to go above and beyond your stated job duties.

Of course, this is not a purely selfish endeavor. Your organization stands to benefit a great deal as well. Just ask Google. Some of its most exciting projects, including Gmail, AdSense and Google News, were spawned from passion projects. As Google can attest, allowing employees the time to pursue their own interests and experiment with their own ideas encourages innovation and boosts employee engagement.

3. How do you start a passion project? Think creatively. When looking for your passion project, consider the following questions: What problems need to be solved? What areas of opportunity can you exploit? What strengths can you leverage?

Unless you're already operating with a great deal of autonomy, it helps to have the support of your supervisor. Remember that the best passion projects benefit you and the organization. The goal is to find one project that does both.

If this kind of thing is not culturally ingrained in your organization, you may encounter some resistance. Don't give up. Make a strong case by focusing primarily on the value your passion project provides to the organization as well as your personal commitment to its success.

A passion project should be worked on using discretionary time. Because it is, by its very nature, an added bonus to your regular responsibilities, it's important that you don't let it distract from your primary priorities. A good passion project will be invigorating, and you'll likely want to spend more time on it than you realistically have. Don't let your other obligations slip, or your passion project could have a counterproductive impact.

Follow these steps and you'll soon feel that fire in your belly when you think of your contribution at work.
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