You've been told to follow your passion more times than you can count, but is this bad advice? Here's why more experts are telling career seekers to stop following their passions and do this instead.
It's everywhere from your Instagram feed to your commencement speech: advice telling you to "follow your passion," with the promise that, as long as you do what you love, success will follow.
But is this really true?
Especially in today's ultra-competitive job market, and with the increasing shift towards careers that allow you to "be your own boss," is following your passion still the solid advice we all once thought it was?
More importantly, is it a realistic way to provide for yourself, your family, and actually achieve happiness in your career?
Read on to find out why the biggest names in the business and entrepreneurial worlds are telling you to leave your passion at the door and start getting brutally honest with yourself instead.
"Follow Your Passion" is not Real Advice
First of all, let's break down one of the most important reasons why "follow your passion" just isn't great advice.
It's incredibly abstract.
If you want to be successful at something (or just make a living wage) then you need a concrete plan to make that happen. You need to find out which universities you should attend, the internships you should apply for, the cities you should live in, and the connections you should make.
The "follow your dreams" strategy doesn't come with any kind of a blueprint for success and happiness. Instead, it's effectively telling you to wait around and to keep doing the same things you've always been doing until one day, magically, someone notices you.
It promotes the promise of "overnight success" but doesn't give you any tangible ways to make that success happen.
It's a passive way to approach your career. You're not making things happen, you're waiting for things to happen to you.
This will only cause you to doubt yourself, your choices, and above all, whether or not the thing you were so passionate about really is what you want to do.
It Doesn't Allow for Evolution
Take a moment now and think back to the job that you would answer the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" with as a child.
Maybe you dreamed of being an astronaut. Maybe you wanted to be a fireman. Maybe you wanted to be a mail carrier, a movie star, a veterinarian, a model, or a teacher.
Think about how much more you've discovered out of life since your school days.
You encountered new subjects that you found incredibly interesting. You went on a trip that changed your perspective. You discovered that there were other fields that you weren't even aware existed. You developed a new skill set.
You also encountered the real world -- the world of paying your own rent, for groceries, for medical bills and for happy hours with friends.
In short, chances are, you don't have the same dreams that you did when you were five years old, for a variety of reasons.
Following your passion allows for very little flexibility. This advice can actually make you feel guilty about changing your mind or entering a new career -- because you've sunk so much time and energy into something that you knew wasn't actually a good fit for you.
As you get older, you start to see the importance of money over passion. You fully understand what it takes to survive. Your personal priorities shift.
You need to find meaningful work that allows you to support yourself and grow in your career. If you're wedded to unrealistic or just outdated ideas or career paths (taxi drivers, anyone?) then happiness and professional success will always elude you.
Don't Follow Your Passion: Finding Meaningful Work That's Realistic
Now that you understand more about why "follow your passion" is bad advice, let's talk about how you can find something you enjoy doing that allows you to develop your skills and cultivate a sense of pride in your work.
No matter how far-fetched it might sound now, the truth is that you can become passionate about a career once you realize that you're actually good at it.
Remember that finding a career that allows you to play to your strengths -- whether or not the skill set you have is in line with what you care the most about -- allows you to do the things you care about in your free time.
Take stock not of what you love, but what you are good at.
Then, look at the opportunities that are actually available to you based on your location, age, experience, educational background, and other factors. Be brutally honest with yourself, and ask others to be brutally honest with you.
Then, think about what the field that you have the "biggest shot" of getting hired within needs right now, and how your skill set can fill that need.
Don't apply for that position that requires tons of qualifications you don't have.
Instead, apply for the one that may be lower on the totem pole, but that will allow you to grow and develop professionally -- so that you can devote more time to your passions outside of work and feel fulfilled by the good you're doing for your company.
Ready to Start Your New Career?
We hope that this post has helped you to understand that you don't have to blindly follow your passion in order to have the job and the lifestyle that you want.
Instead, it's all about finding a balance between your skill set, the opportunities available in the current job market, and how you choose to spend your free time.
Remember, no matter how impossible it seems now, you can learn to love any career that allows you to develop your skill set and genuinely help other people.
Looking to jumpstart your new career today? Want to find impactful positions at companies you've always wanted to work with?
We can help.
Be sure to check out our job board to find the opportunities that are right for you, give you the freedom you want, and allow you to grow personally and professionally.