There is a ton of debate lately around this question: “When it comes to a job, should you do what you love?” Should you be passionate about your work? In one camp, there are those who hold the super strong belief that you must love what you do to be fulfilled at work. On the other side are those who think that a job is a job and expecting that you also get to love it is pretty entitled.
The New York Times article from this weekend “Follow a Career Passion? Let it Follow You” is a really great read on the topic. The article reminds us all that we have to work our butt off at whatever path we choose. It is not always going to be easy, or enjoyable, or convenient. That doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. As the article says “Every time our work becomes hard, we are pushed toward an existential crisis, centered on what for many is an obnoxiously unanswerable question: “Is this what I’m really meant to be doing?” This constant doubt generates anxiety and chronic job-hopping.”
I echo this sentiment. Even when you’ve found a career or role that you really do love, you can’t turn your back on it the minute things get tough (or assume this means it’s not “right”).
As with so many other good things in life, there are ebbs and flows. If you can’t stick around through the rough parts, you will never be around to experience the total high points that come afterwards.
I also agree that there are a few common traits that do prove to bring people happiness at work. As the author says, “These traits include a sense of autonomy and the feeling that you’re good at what you do and are having an impact on the world.”
While this is also true, I have my own theory on this complicated topic. It’s a bit different from the author of the NYTimes article in that I don’t believe you can blindly apply yourself to any career path out there, work hard, spend time, and therefore find happiness.
I also don’t believe there is this elusive “job soulmate” out there… and if you don’t find it, you are doomed to have a career of discontent.
I believe we all have many passions and natural that can lead us down a variety of career paths. When picking a job or career path, do think about the things you are drawn to (is it fashion, animals, helping people?) Then, think about the things you are good at (is it analyzing, communicating, writing, presenting, researching?)
Incorporate these things as “filters” in your search. Apply to roles that require you to do the things you’re good at in industries that you are interested in.
Applying those filters won’t limit you to one “holy grail” of a job. They will serve as parameters to make sure you will be spending many of your waking hours doing something you are naturally good at (even though there will be plenty to learn) and also spending them immersed in a topic or area that will keep you engaged.
And then, most importantly… put in a ton of hard work, effort, and dedication. Get through some of the inevitable pain points and rough patches, and you will achieve autonomy, satisfaction, confidence, and have the power to make an impact… all in an area that means something to you.