I remember vividly the day I realized I was headed down a path in my major course work that would lead nowhere close to happiness, and certainly not to passion in my career. I was at my apartment pacing around, wondering what to do about finding a job in the field of accounting or finance. Then I realized: I hated accounting, but I viewed it as a necessary evil. And I didn’t like finance even though I knew there was plenty of money to be made in the field. Whoops.
So let’s talk about a few different ways we can look at being passionate about course work and how that might apply to the career search.
1) Pursuing our passion early in the hope we’ll find a matching career
One choice in choosing and completing a major course of study is doing what we love in the short term. It might be studying history because we are fascinated by the events of the past. It might be majoring in creative writing because of a long-time admiration with a favorite author or blogger. Perhaps it means studying physical education because we were so dang in love with our P.E. classes growing up.
There are several implications to this approach:
- We get to be happy in the short-term and we embrace our passions in the here and now.
- We have to hope we are able to find a job where our passion applies and they like us enough to hire us.
- It will most likely be easier to express our reason for our major and succeed in our coursework because we are doing what we love.
- We find a job we love, doing what we have always loved, based on studying what we love.
- We have studied what we love and find that what we love is not in high demand in the market place and we end up sitting at home, jobless. There are a million iterations in between, but these are the two extremes.
2) Developing a skill set which can be applied to a passionate career
We approach our major course work and learning with the attitude of: If I develop this skill set now, I will be able to apply it to something I love when I find a job. In this case, we are deferring absolute passion in the short term to experience long-lasting passion in the medium- and long-term.
An example here might be studying marketing based on a need you know exists at a company which you absolutely LOVE and with whom you positively align. In such an example you are positioning yourself to obtain the necessary skills to do the work you know you love.
Alternatively, an entrepreneurial individual might double-major in creative design and management in order to develop the necessary skills to run a successful design business upon graduation.
- We look at our studies as a necessary evil. As a result, we might be inclined to study less or attend class less often.
- We might be better positioned than our peers to land that dream job upon graduation.
- We defer embracing our passions to a later date, often until graduation.
- On the other end, we use our new skill set as leverage to land a job doing work we love.
- On one end, we have a skill set about which we could really care less and a job fit specifically to that skill set.
3) Developing a skill set and finding a career that will allow us to be happy and passionate later in life
The third choice is one that best reflects the old-school way of thinking. In this case, we study something admirable and needed in the marketplace. The age-old professions this brings to mind are doctors, lawyers, and accountants. They will always be needed, and they will almost always end up making enough money to retire comfortably if they so choose.
In this case we might study science now to go on and receive our doctorate at a respectable school and then spend several years in residency before finally fulfilling the role of full-fledged doctor. We do all of this because we have been told it is respectable and it will allow us to pursue our passion later in life. (Which is entirely nullified if our passion is medicine or helping those in need… in which case becoming a doctor would fulfill the choice #1)
- Our studies are most likely grueling and they are made even more so by our lack of passion for the material.
- Our sense of fulfillment and embracing our passion is delayed for an extended period of time until retirement.
- We fulfill a need in the marketplace and do the work considered to be admirable and respected.
- We fulfill the world’s expectations, become a world-renowned professional and retire to fulfill our passion… Whether that be living on a beach in Hawaii or teaching small children in the developing world.
- We study something for which we lack interest, we do work for which we lack interest, and we become so jaded and emotionally dull that we end up settling for something less than what we love, even once we reach retirement.
It’s not the end of the world
Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that none of the above choices is the end of the world. We have never made a permanent, irreversible career choice, no matter how far we head down a given path. While it may be incredibly difficult to come to terms with time spent doing something other than what we love, we can always turn around and march to the beat of our own drum.
In the end, there is no wrong answer. The right answer is simply what makes us feel most fulfilled. Becoming a doctor or an accountant is absolutely no less acceptable than becoming a P.E. teacher or creative writer. In fact, all options are equally acceptable and what the world needs…. if it gives us a way to embrace our passion and fulfill our sense of purpose.
It’s not worth waiting
In my opinion, the only option not worth pursuing is the final one. Deferring satisfaction to a later date at the expense of our passion and fulfillment is a travesty. There are far too many problems in the world and far too many needs to be met to go out and do work for which we have zero interest or zeal.
Please don’t wait to do something you love because you think the world expects something else of you. Who cares? What the world expects and what the world needs are two different things. Only we know our true inner ability and passion, and often times it far exceeds what the world expects of us.
It’s all in how we frame our experience
Whether we end up on the path of studying our passion, studying a necessary skill set, or completely putting off our passion to do what is expected, we can always use the experience to end up on the path to fulfillment. What this means… there is no reason to fret.
No matter if we realize which path we are on today or five years from now, it is never a moment too late. We will always be able to frame our experience in such a way that it prepares us to embrace our passion.
One way or another, passion is best when fully embraced
However, the sooner we challenge ourselves to dig deep and start with what’s inside of us, the sooner we will have the opportunity to make an educated decision about where we are headed.
One way or another, our passion(s) best serves the world when fully embraced. The question best to immediately answer is this: what is your passion?
Now that we’ve been asked, it is our responsibility not to ignore the call to master our purpose by embracing our passion.
I’m curious to know – which of the three scenarios are you pursuing or did you pursue when you were in college or your early career? Which path seems most desirable to you?