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You Can’t Train Passion

Passionate People
(Image credit: Olga Kurbatova/Getty Images)

College. Graduation. Interviews. Nothing. Hiatus to Oregon. Completely broke. Job. That’s my career path in 10 words.

I have a story somewhat typical of recent grads. I looked, applied, and interviewed at several companies and was unsuccessful for six months or so. I took a trip to Oregon that led to a six-month adventure where I completely exhausted the $500 I had to my name, and I came back to Minnesota with something to prove. I wasn’t going to be unsuccessful; I was not going to be broke. I was not going to have wasted those four years in college. I was passionate to succeed.

Passion is a funny thing. It’s not something you can fake, and it’s not something you can teach. It is, however, the element that can make you persevere. Passion powers the hard work, determination, and creativity that make great accomplishments possible.

I’ve been consistently challenged throughout my career with roles I may not necessarily have been prepared for, which pushed me to the breaking point at times. But it was always move forward or move on for me.

While I can’t sit here and say I’ve been able to rise to every challenge that has come my way, I can confidently say that I’ve never stepped down from one. My passion to succeed has powered my hunger to learn more, put in more time, develop more skills.

That’s me … but how do we recognize passion in our employees? Have you ever asked an engineer why they built a product or what problem it solved?

As a marketer in the AV industry, I’ve gotten to do this a lot, and let me tell you, some engineers literally light up like it’s Christmas morning explaining what this switch does and what that twinkly light signifies and why exactly this product is going to change the way we communicate.

[Creating a Smarter Product Ecosystem with Co-Marketing]

Hearing someone talk with such pride in their voice about what they created is a great example of how passionate they are about what they are doing. The passion of individuals is critical to the success of a company—and, in my opinion, the main driver to success for individuals.

Think about your most valued employee or coworker. Why do you feel that way about them? What traits do they have?

I have found that the people I most admire or gravitate toward are the people who will put in the extra effort—people who aren’t afraid to go above and beyond by learning a new skill, putting in more time, or offering words of advice. These people become more than coworkers. They become friends and mentors. They have a natural charisma that makes them strive to do more.

When we start recognizing what it is that makes our existing or new employees passionate, we begin to develop something far greater than someone who checks the boxes of our immediate need because passionate people are like magnets who attract more passionate people.

Skills can be trained—passion, however, is innate. The skills I needed when I started working with my current employer have changed drastically three years later; what hasn’t changed is my hunger to continue to learn and succeed.

At some point, work becomes work. It’s not always glamourous and you do not always get to live your dream. Passionate people who feel appreciated for the work they are doing will continue to be consistent performers in order to move toward their goals of success.

We all want to hire people extremely skilled in their areas of expertise, but I think it’s important to note that while experience counts for a lot, it shouldn’t necessarily be the dominant factor in choosing new hires. Instead, passion should play the leading role in your new business relationship. If you are hiring for passion, you will be hiring for future growth and present change.

Let’s start celebrating the passion we bring to the table. When we do this, we begin to create a culture that others want to be a part of.