August 15, 2010
The myth of following your bliss
It's unfortunate that our nation's collective body of career advice has led so many young workers to assume that there's a single vocation out there for each and every one of them that will provide them with an unlimited well of employment bliss.
[Image by oddsock]
Call me cynical, but I'd a firm believer that this isn't always the case. However, I'm also a firm believer that there's nothing wrong with not loving the work you do -- especially in this post-recession economy.
As we've already established, a paycheck is a beautiful thing to behold. There's also something to be said for pursuing one's passion after hours, free from the burden of having to make a living at it. Maybe I'm showing my age, but this in fact is what I told the unemployed, confused thirtysomething who inspired my previous post.
I wish more guidance counselors, career coaches, and employment experts would say the same. Instead, they sweep the following career realities under the rug:
"Do what you love and the money will follow" doesn't always work. In many ways, "finding your passion" is a rather privileged notion. Not everyone can afford to follow their bliss for long, if at all. And some blissful pursuits don't offer much in the way of income for more than a handful of pursuers and never will (poetry and poker come to mind). More often than not, a secondary source of income is required.
You can still get burned out on a career you love. Even people who love the work they do have been known to jump ship. Sometimes the job or business runs its course and it's time to move on to greener pastures. Other times anchoring your passion to your paycheck reduces your love of gardening, cooking, or photography to Just Another Tedious Job and has you longing for the days when you could plant a tree, bake a pie, or take a photo without having to please any customers or managers in the process. Still other times a vocation you love -- such as being a freelance web designer -- leads to a vocation you love even more -- such as running a multimedia design agency.
Not everyone will find a career they're passionate about. I know plenty of people who've never found their career calling, and I'm sure you do too. Many of them spend a decade or three moving from mercenary job to mercenary job, feeling frustrated that they've yet to identify a vocation that excites them. I think there should be a moratorium on such "What should I do with my life?" angst. If you don't find a job or career you love by the time you're, say, 35 or 40, start throwing yourself a bit deeper into your after-hours hobbies, side projects, or volunteer pursuits. At worst, the workweek will become a bit more palatable. At best, you may accidentally stumble upon your next vocation.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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