“Follow your passion” is a popular career-related expression. The conventional wisdom goes: you’ll find happiness and a fulfilling career if you have the courage to discover your true calling. If you’re not brave enough, however, you’ll become an empty shell of a human being with a commute-work-die life.
We’re constantly told that fulfilling work comes from doing what we love. But is this true?
More and more experts are declaring that pursuing a passion is actually the worst career advice in history. (Read this piece by Penelope Trunk for a particularly strong smackdown.) Our take? To find a good career match, figure out your personality first, not your passion.
What’s Wrong with the Passion Philosophy
It’s true that some people really do have a calling. They’re the ones who wanted to be a dancer/teacher/marine biologist since they could talk and can’t image their life without this work. But they represent an intensely small minority! And they’re not the ones searching for career options.
For the rest of us, our career paths will be a series of discoveries. On average, we will change jobs eleven times, and probably make a few 180-degree career pivots along the way.
Yet because we’re raised with the expectation that following your bliss leads to success, the whole process of choosing the “right” career can become insanely stressful. We worry that if we don’t (or can’t) find our career equivalent of a soul mate, we won’t have a satisfying work life. It’s a perfect recipe for chronic doubt and inaction.
Research Is Not On the Side of Passion
We’re not saying that having passion for your work is bad. Indeed, research shows that enjoying your work makes you more productive and more successful.
However, Cal Newport, the author of Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You, points out a missing piece of the passion puzzle :
Research shows that the traits that lead people to love their work are general, and can be found in many different career paths. They include things like autonomy, a sense of impact and mastery, creativity, and respect and recognition for your abilities. Once you recognize that these traits have little to do with following a pre-existing passion, and can be cultivated in many different fields, you can safely abandon the myth that there’s a single right job waiting out there for you.
Figure Out What Makes You Tick
This leads to the question: What motivates you? Does your personality thrive on personal freedom? The feeling of accomplishment after mastering a task? Seeing your positive impact on the people you work with?
Figuring out what makes you tick doesn’t necessarily happen during long hours of quiet contemplation. Get out into the real world to discover your values by:
- Taking a personality test like the like Myers Briggs
- Working a part-time jobs
- Talking to people about their work experience
- Job shadowing
This isn’t a complete list. You can do basically anything that helps you understand where your personality and work values intersect with career options. When you discover career ideas that match who you are—rather than what you’re passionate about—you’ll find opportunities that will keep you engaged and happy.
Do you think personality trumps passion? Tell us your thoughts, in the comments below!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Inside Jobs!