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At some point in your adult life, someone has likely told you that the best way to find a job that will make you happy is to do what you’re passionate about.
Some may have even gone so far as to say something like, “do what you love and the money will follow” or “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
These sayings sound nice, for sure. In 2021 and beyond, though, is it actually a good idea for people to follow their passions, particularly as it relates to finding a job and earning a living?
Outlined below are some pros and cons of pursuing a career doing something you love. You’ll also find some other approaches you can take to find a fulfilling career.
Some people have landed jobs they love by following their passions and pursuing their interests and hobbies. Here are a few reasons why following your passion may be the right move when it comes to planning your career and making decisions for the future:
If you find a career that lines up with your passions and interests, you’ll likely find that you feel more deeply invested in your work.
Rather than going through the motions and counting down the minutes until you can clock out, you’ll be more motivated to show up each day, put your best foot forward, and find ways to help the business move forward.
Not only will following your passion increase your chances of feeling deeply invested in your work, but you may also have an easier time going above and beyond for your team and your employer.
Because you have a deep interest in the work you’re doing, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself looking for opportunities to take on more responsibility and help the company (and your team) reach its goals sooner.
Sometimes, when people pursue a specific career just because of the salary or benefits it provides (and not because they’re passionate about it), everything they do starts to feel forced.
It’s often hard for people in this position to get into a “flow state” and be creative or feel any enjoyment in what they’re doing each day. Instead, their work becomes taxing on their minds and, in some cases, their bodies.
One way to avoid this issue is to do something about which you’re passionate.
It’s often easier to be an effective, creative problem-solver when you enjoy the work you do and feel passionately about it.
If you’re doing something you love, you have more motivation and drive to solve problems and help the company operate as smoothly as possible. You will likely find that you want to think outside of the box and approach issues from different angles because you’re dedicated to a specific industry and genuinely want to make it better.
While some do find success following their passions, this approach doesn’t work for everyone. The following are some reasons why choosing not to follow your passion may be a better option:
Depending on what your passion is, there might not be a lot of career opportunities available to you. This is especially true if your education and training background doesn’t qualify you for certain jobs.
Let’s say you’re passionate about basketball. If you don’t have the skills and genetic gifts necessary to be a professional basketball player, that eliminates the most obvious career path for you.
Could you pursue a career that still allows you to spend a lot of time around the game, such as a statistician or sportscaster? Yes, but those careers require very specific skill sets that not everyone has or is capable of developing without putting in a lot of energy and effort.
Sometimes, people follow their passion into a specific field, only to end up feeling less passionate because they’re spending all of their time thinking about a specific activity or subject.
Maybe you love fitness and look forward to your daily workout because of all the benefits it gives to you. However, if you pursue a career as a personal trainer, you might find that you spend so much time thinking about other people’s fitness goals that you no longer have the energy or bandwidth to go after your own.
If you base your career solely on what you’re passionate about, you might even start to feel resentful or apathetic toward your passions and interests.
Continuing with the personal training example from above, if you spend so much time helping other people achieve their fitness goals, you might find that you aren’t interested in working out or prioritizing your nutrition when work is finished.
You might also start to feel angry that you can’t work out as much as you’d like, or you might be annoyed that your goals have to take a back seat to those of your clients.
When you’re working in a field that you’re passionate about, rather than never working a day in your life, you’ll likely find that you’re working (or thinking about work) for most of the day.
Following your passion into a specific career could lead to you working longer hours and dedicating more time and energy to your job. This can create an imbalance between your work life and your personal life and can strain relationships between you and your loved ones.
You don’t always have to follow your passion to find a great job. However, that also doesn’t mean you have to settle for something that you absolutely hate.
There’s plenty of middle ground to explore and lots of other ways to find a job that is fulfilling, pays well, and helps you to accomplish your unique career goals. Here are some alternatives to consider:
Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Then, consider how those strengths may make you well-equipped for certain careers and how those weaknesses may hold you back from thriving in others.
This helps you move beyond your interests and passions so you can be more practical about what is and isn’t a good career for you.
Think carefully about your work-related values, too.
When it comes to your job, what matters most? Do you value a good sense of work-life balance? Do you value opportunities to collaborate with others or opportunities to make a difference in your community?
After assessing your values, consider whether the careers that are related to your passions align with them.
Before you dedicate time, energy, and money to pursuing a career that lines up with your passions and interests, make sure you fully understand the duties and responsibilities associated with that career (look beyond what you see on TV or in movies).
Once you have a thorough understanding of the field, consider whether or not you want to handle all the tasks that go along with doing a particular job.
What kind of schedule do you want to work? Will following your passion allow you to have that kind of schedule? If not, are you willing to compromise?
If you end up in a job that has you working long hours or at times that are completely opposite of your loved ones’ schedules, you may start to feel resentful toward the career, your employer, and your passions themselves.
The only people who say money doesn’t matter are the people who already have plenty of money. If you’re not lucky enough to be part of this group, you likely will need to think about the median salaries for various jobs and choose one that will work for you, your family, and your lifestyle.
When evaluating different careers and job opportunities, reflect upon the amount of room for advancement that each provides.
Will there be chances for you to obtain promotions, gain salary increases, and be a leader, manager, or supervisor? If there’s not a lot of upward mobility, are you okay with staying in one position for a long time, or will you start to feel bored and stagnant?
Finally, think about the job market for a specific career. Even if you are passionate about and interested in it, will you be able to get hired when the time comes to start filling out job applications?
There’s a lot more to finding a fulfilling, lucrative career than simply following your passion or doing what makes you happy.
If you’ve been trying this approach and it hasn’t been working out for you, or if you’ve started to feel resentful about the activities and interests that you were once passionate about, it might be time to try doing things in a different way.
Consider the alternatives outlined above so you can feel satisfied with your career path and stay passionate about the things you love.