How To Navigate Your WorkLife and Find Your Purpose

You May Discover It at an Early Stage of Your WorkLife, Or You May Discover It at a Later Stage. Both Are OK.

Photo by Hello I’m Nick on Unsplash

A Case Study: Mary’s Story:

As a young girl, Mary didn’t have any great aspirations about what she wanted to do or be in her WorkLife. Her university choice came about because she knew she enjoyed drama. Growing up, along with her siblings, she enjoyed creating and performing in shows, mostly to their parents, but also to extended family and friends when they came to visit.

And so Mary went to drama school, but while she enjoyed it, she didn’t have the same passion for it as she had for the online creative writing class she was doing in her own time, outside of her degree. She was encouraged and supported by her tutor, who told her she was a good writer. This led Mary to switch from drama to creative writing in her second year. She really loved it and felt she was a better writer than a performer. Although she did keep her hand in with the dramatic arts, switching from doing online classes in her own time to being part of the local drama group.

But on graduating, Mary wasn’t sure what was next. She applied for different jobs and landed herself a role within HR, joining an L&D team in the public sector. She loved creating and delivering learning programmes and discovered she had a natural ability in doing this. What she didn’t love was what she believed was unnecessary bureaucracy — protocols, procedures and red tape that complicated the rollout of programmes, with regards to who was eligible for what learning, growth and development pathways. Mary believed this led to people being treated as human resources (a phrase she really didn’t like) and not as human beings.

Mary had an idea to set herself up as a freelance learning consultant, creating programmes that were accessible to everyone, and so, she left her job. But following a WorkLife pathway as a consultant, she was soon to discover was easier said than done. Because the companies she most wanted to consult for couldn’t pay enough for it to be viable.

While figuring out what she could do next, a friend asked if she would be interested in doing a semester teaching a module on L&D at the business school where he taught. Mary said yes. She enjoyed the experience, and once again, she found that she was good at it.

All the while, she had kept her hand in with creative writing and regularly submitted stories to various publications, many of which were published. She had also kept her hand in with performing arts and was regularly involved with amateur drama productions.

It was these joint activities that led to another piece of work, as Mary was suggested as the ideal candidate to research and write an article for the local drama school about the importance of learning through the arts. This was used by the school in their funding pitch to bring learning and the arts together across different areas of study — from business studies to law, to medicine, to marketing. The pitch was successful, and Mary was brought on board to create and deliver the learning programmes.

Mary had really enjoyed the whole process, and she was back to where she had started, creating and delivering learning programmes. Along the way, she had tapped into her creative writing and her ability to create performances. She had learnt how to create classroom modules and to then teach them. She had also learnt how to research and write academic articles. She did all of this as a freelance consultant, and so, she had cobbled together a way of working that was financially viable in sustaining herself as a consultant. She had done this by honouring what she was good at, by saying yes to things that interested her, by being open to learning what she needed to learn and discovering what she was good at.


Mary had never thought that she had a purpose in her WorkLife. Her thinking was that she was just going with the flow and following wherever it took it, which was true. However, she now realised that she had, in fact, been following her purpose and that it had been guiding her for a long time. She realised that when she had decided she wanted her WorkLife to be about creating programmes that were accessible to everyone, she had, in effect, created her purpose.

She had left her job based on this, which was actually a scary thing to do, but she hadn’t felt fear. Instead, she had felt driven. And when she realised starting out as a freelance consultant, she couldn’t make a living, working with the companies she aspired to work with, although she felt a sense of being blocked, she also felt a sense that she would find a way to push through that. She was in unknown territory, and yet she found a way to navigate through that. She now realised that her purpose had been what had guided her in her WorkLife since she had finished college.

4 Steps To Discovering and Navigating Your WorkLife Purpose Assignment

Step One: Do what you’re good at and also what you enjoy doing. i.e. for Mary, that was creative writing and creating performances.

Step Two: Learn what you need along the way. i.e. Mary had to learn how to create classroom modules, and she then had to learn how to teach them. She also had to learn how to research and write academic articles.

Step Three: Say Yes to the things that interest you. i.e. Mary said yes to researching and writing an article for the local drama school about the importance of learning through the arts.

Step Four: Be open to learning what you need to learn and to discovering what you are good at. i.e. That’s the moral of Mary’s story.

Words of Wisdom

There is a purpose within each of us. For some, it is inherent from a young age. For others, it reveals itself at a later stage of their WorkLife. Whichever is relevant to you, you will not necessarily have the full vision when you start out, and that is OK. You just need to take one step and see where it takes you, then the next step and the next step. As you walk along your WorkLife pathway, you will begin to gain clarity around your purpose. From this, your vision will form and grow; and from this, you can begin to do what you need to do to make your purpose a reality in living your WorkLife with purpose.


As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I create learning programmes and resources to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives in good, challenging and bad times.

The focus of my work begins by helping people identify a WorkLife path that’s true to their core values, purpose, and motivation. This is followed through by creating meaningful short and long-term WorkLife plans while enabling self-coaching, self-directing, and self-leadership to drive these plans.

My book, Your WorkLife Your Way, focuses on helping you live your best WorkLife by managing your learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful questions and the ability to shape and tell your unique story. Click on the title to see a preview of what’s inside the book.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.