As career advice, the glib suggestion to “follow your passion” is idiotic. Here are four important refinements to that classic career advice.
Qualifications. One needs to focus on a career that roughly matches one’s skills. If you are a klutz but your passion is surgery, it is irresponsible to encourage you to pick up a scalpel. The counseling is not as snappy, but it is more accurate to say, “follow your passion if it leads toward a career to which you have at least average natural abilities.” Duh.
Yes, there are occasions when a total incompetent can rise to a respected position, especially in the arts or politics. But the odds are against it.
The hoosegow. What if your passion is embezzling or molesting innocents? Those strike me as poor career choices. Shouldn’t the career advice be, “Follow your passion as long as it leads in a direction that is not obnoxiously criminal”?
Supply and demand. One needs a career that will pay the bills. Best if it is some activity that people value and which not everyone and her uncle can do. Pretending that the intensity of your passion is the only thing that matters is foolish economic advice.
So be careful if your passion is building model railroads or sculpting portraits in butter. Unless things change, the demand will remain tiny and the competition fierce.
Happiness at work. Hiding in the recommendation to “follow your passion” is the assumption that your job should be a source of gratification and happiness. Not necessarily. It is perfectly valid strategy to work to get money and use your spare time, weekends, and retirement to follow your passion.
In fact, separating work and play can make each of them far easier to manage. So here’s the right career advice. “For happiness, find a job to pay the bills where there is enough mental challenge to keep you interested and where you encounter pleasant people who think you or what you do is special. If your passion lies elsewhere, use your own time to indulge in its pursuit.”
I recognize that no one ever takes any of my advice. (See previous blog.) But I’ll include this disclaimer to be safe.
DISCLAIMER: This career advice is offered for entertainment only. No one who follows this advice should expect positive outcomes or hold the author responsible for the terrible results that ensue. Always behave in a rational manner. Seek the counsel of qualified healthcare professionals, attorneys, and accountants before you act. Never pay the least attention to ridiculous advice in ridiculous blogs.
Summary: Follow your passion—sort of, a little.
Pittsburgh, August 8, 2019