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Finding Your Passion – The Path to Self-Discovery

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I am about to hit my 21st anniversary at Intel. Around here when you mention your tenure and it’s divisible by 7, most people immediately ask, “What are you doing for sabbatical*?” Every 7 years, Intel has you leave the office for two months and go on a sabbatical. They continue to pay your salary like you were at work, even though you’re not working.   Oftentimes, it’s the first time employees actually reflect back on their careers and what they’ve been doing.

Intel wants you to refresh, recharge and rediscover yourself while you are away from the office and disengaged from work. Many people I work with use this opportunity to re-discover their passions and refocus themselves. They come back to work and take on new roles, new challenges or have figured out how to change what they do to better align with their goals. Looking back to when I was thinking about a job after college, I wish I had the foresight to pause and better understand and reflect on where my passions lay and what was going to fuel my passion every day. When all is said and done, we spend an enormous amount of our time at work. Why do work that doesn’t satisfy, doesn’t challenge or fuel you?

Oftentimes we are so bent on getting a job to pay the bills or repay student loans; we put job security ahead of pursuing our passion and playing to our strengths. I remember accepting my first position at Intel. I was so excited to have benefits, to have a steady income and to join a group that was doing things the rest of the world couldn’t yet imagine with handwriting and voice recognition. Granted I was the financial analyst and not an engineer – but I still had an important role to play ensuring the engineers got and kept their funding and got swift approval for purchases of bits and bobs that would help them develop the technology in-house. Somewhere in accepting that job, I neglected my passion for teaching and helping others. I was a student teacher in high school and a tutor in college. It took me nearly 6 years to figure out that I wasn’t playing to this strength or fueling my passion.

My advice to you this time – get in touch with your passions, understand and document your strengths, be true to your path and pursue it relentlessly. Journaling is a great way to understand yourself. Answer this question, “What would I do for free?” What would you do happily, repeatedly, day in and day out even if no one paid you? Spend a solid few hours on understanding the type of work and activities you would pursue.

Explore your strengths. Ask your parents, people who raised you, siblings, friends, professors, roommates and other people who know you best to list out your strengths. Look for patterns – see what resonates. Resist the temptation to discount their opinions. Just listen. Take it all in and write it down. Take a few strengths assessments to give yourself more words to describe what you do well and can do consistently.

With those two things done – look at the jobs you’re applying for and the classes you’ve taken. How do they use your strengths and passions? What if they don’t? Do you have a mismatch? Are you pursing a job or a career you can see yourself doing for the next 10 years? Next 20?

My vision for myself changed dramatically after I got back in touch with my dreams, my thoughts and my passions. Lucky for me – teaching inside Intel is easy. We have a volunteer University. Thousands of classes are offered every year to Intel employees worldwide with fellow Intel employees teaching them. The classes span the gamut from C++ to Strengthening Manager Skills to how to lead Effective Meetings. I teach several classes every month to help new Managers transition from Individual Contributor roles and help all employees focus on Career Development. Every year or so I learn something new and work with Intel University to figure out how I can share that with others. Teaching fuels me and gives me fresh perspective I can take back to my regular job. What fuels you? What are you doing to get in touch with your Passions?


*Although Intel’s Sabbatical program is specific to the U.S. and Canada, we also have paid-time off options in other countries. Find out more about Intel’s different compensation and benefits packages offered around the world.