Is the passionate career becoming a myth?

The passionate career is a myth.  Stop ruining your passions by forcing them into career archetypes.

Let me ask you a question. Do you like to go out to the bar or occasionally spend a night on the town? I know I do.  Does that mean that just because I like going to the bar I should work at one professionally? How about a co-worker who enjoys baking cakes? Because she enjoys baking is she then supposed to go and open a bakery? The answer is no. Unless of course you really want to. Why do we feel the need to link things we enjoy with things we get paid to do for work?

The issue many of us face is that we are trying to associate passion with a career.
Have you ever picked up a hobby like playing the piano, graphic design or mixing music and since abandoned it because it wasn’t really in your career interest? I know I have. It doesn’t have to be that way.  We seem to be evaluating our interests in black and white, do or don’t.  (If you truly struggle with one career, in general, you may possibly have a split mentality.) Taking things a step further why do think it is that we lose interest in a passion once we transform it into a career? My answer: we associate something we once enjoyed as now being something that requires work. When we associate something as being work or chore-like we ultimately lose interest.  I don’t think I’ve met one person that has remarked “I can’t WAIT to go home and clean my entire house.”

Have you ever heard the phrase:
“oh, you just haven’t found your passion yet…?”

I seem to notice a common theme developing amongst millennials and people who are trying to link something they are passionate about with something they want to do for their career. The end result is often loss of interest and abandoned passion.  To me, this is a very sad thing. More and more millennials are beginning to fear singularity, the thought of just one career choice that defines them for the rest of their life. Due to this looming fear, they abandon interests they would otherwise enjoy.

Why is it we assume we must be passionate with our careers?

“You spend 33% of your life sleeping and 33% of your life working, so get a good bed and get a good job.” – a former boss

This quote sets the precedence that we are all destined to find a mythical job that we are incredibly passionate about.  This implies that somehow magically we are going to love getting stuck in traffic working 50 hour weeks, regardless of the trade.  As long as we are passionate, no problem, right? Hogwash. The reality is work is work, and it always will be work. Some just enjoy working more than others. For those who do claim they greatly enjoy their jobs, it’s usually related to how the job makes them feel, not about the actual work it takes to get there.  For example, a photographer doesn’t really enjoy editing photos, they enjoy the amazing end-product that is a result from his or her hard work.

Since the late 1990s, Gallup has been measuring worldwide employee satisfaction across 25 million employees in 189 different countries. The results are astounding.

  • 32.1% of workers are engaged in their company
    Only 1 out of 3 employees contribute in a positive manner to their company.
  • 51% of employees are actively considering a new job
    1 out of 2 people is not passionate about their current job.
  • 93% of adults left their current employer to change roles
    Only 7% of employees look within their current organization for advancement.  Yikes!
  • 70% of employees are not influenced by their immediate management team
    I’ve always said that employees leave their managers, not their jobs.
  • 38% of managers properly set expectations for their workers.
    This means that 62% of managers are not setting a precedence for proper employee engagement.
  • 25% of all college graduates are not being equipped for workplace success.
    1 out of 4 adults will not be prepared for the workforce despite a lengthy college career and expensive tuition.

Source: Gallup

Why can’t we just separate work and passion into the verticals they belong? Work is work, passion is passion.  Why are we forced to marry the two?

Before you huff and puff let me premise by saying I’m not advising anyone to work at a career they don’t enjoy.  If you have to invest 33% of your life working you should want to enjoy it as best possible. The point I am making is that when we try to marry both passion and work we often come up disappointed. We feel lost in the pursuit of happiness. We give up on our childlike inhibitions and choose a career that’s acceptable to makes ends meet. We feel ostracized when we see happy people around enjoying their careers. What are we doing wrong?

There are a number of reasons we ultimately find ourselves lacking passion for what we do in our career:

  • We romanticize careers
    Just like our favorite movies we play the workforce as a dream sequence in our mind. We envision ourselves merrily spinning in a field holding hands with a career we are truly happy with. This is not reality, but hey, it’s always nice to dream.
  • It’s called work for a reason; they pay you to do it
    The definition of workthe result of exertion, labor, or activity; a deed or performance. Funny, I didn’t see the words passion, happiness or enjoyment in there anywhere. Did you? So why are we shoving the word passion into the word work?
  • Life obstacles make leaving a financially stable life for passion difficult
    Many people have homes, families and other financial obligations that cement them in their career choices at times unwillingly. Leaving their career for something they might actually enjoy is more of a novelty thought than an actionable life choice.

I’d like to reiterate that I’m not telling anyone they shouldn’t like their careers.  What I am really saying is stop ruining your passions by forcing them into careers.

I’d like to hear what you have to say on this matter.  The forum is open on my comments section below, or you can drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter!

  • Stella Summer

    Yes, this is a very interesting and sobering article. Passions can be ruined by forcing them into a career. I’ve always liked Barbara Sher’s concept of the “Good Enough Job” i.e. a job that supports your passions financially and leaves you with enough time to pursue them, especially when you are what she calls a Scanner – a person with many different interest who finds it difficult to choose between them.

    • Hey Stella, I am definitely familiar the phrase scanner from Barbara Sher. I think you pointed a critical aspect about having a career: the amount of free time it allows you. I can speak from personal experience that working 60+ hour weeks does say more damage than just not allowing you time for your passions. As a multipassionate /scanner etc. this can be tremendously crippling. One of my reasons for writing this article was because I hear people around me struggle in their careers; voices In pursuit of happiness. I wrote this for that very reason that I think we need to balance what we consider work/career vs what we consider a passion.

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  • bsherny

    Great work, David! I’m sending my Scanners here now! Barbara Sher

    • Hi Barbara!

      Thank you for the compliments and gesture. That is very kind of you and I look forward to interacting with fellow scanners :).

  • Not sure if I totally agree…Definitely it’s true that not everyone gets to work at something they’re passionate about, and no matter how much you like your job, you’d probably rather be at home watching Netflix, or out socializing, or whatever…doing something that is fun, and not work. But I still think it’s possible to find passion in work. Comes down to finding something that is meaningful and also intellectually stimulating. But then, I haven’t found this thing for myself, so what do I know?

    • Hey Katie, thanks for the feedback, you’re always welcome to disagree :). I think it’s absolutely important to be happy with your career. You typically spend more time working a 9-5 job then yo do at home or with your families. That being said you definitely want to find a place that is challenging and even entertaining if possible. With this article I was trying to expose how many of our passions are abandoned or given up on BECAUSE we try to force them into a career. That, or we don’t pursue them altogether because they have no career future. I’m not sure if it’s a western mentality or cultural response, but I think we need to break from that type of habit. Thanks for your comment 🙂