It is Time: “Follow Your Passion” Must Retire as Career Advice


We hear it all the time…

“Follow your passion!”

Perhaps your job search is stressing you out because you don’t know what your passion is. Maybe you think you’ll never find the right job without being passionate about something, or that you’ll never be happy in a job unless you feel passion for it. Let me help clarify for you.

You don’t need to follow your passion to find your first job after college, and flourish in it.


In my experience, success requires a minimum amount of brains, energy, and ambition. You need a plan that makes sense on paper. And you need luck. Passion is optional.

– Scott Adams


I agree with the Scott Adams.

Maybe you are on your way to finding your passion. Maybe you will find it this year. Maybe you will find it in 50 years. Maybe you will never find it.

Whatever the case, don’t let not finding it stop you in your tracks around your job search. And certainly don’t use it as an excuse to shirk responsibility for your own personal and professional development. Those opportunities abound – no matter what you’re doing.

What you’ll find in the numerous articles I’ve included below is a common theme: Passion is not something you need to feel fulfilled at work.

So you don’t know your ultimate passion. What are other ways to find fulfillment at work?

Passion in the Moment

I recall times in a less than perfect job, when passion arose because of the specific work we were doing. For example, being in a group of really smart people, highly energized, bringing a plan together to make something happen.

I remember thinking at those times, “This is really great. I LOVE doing this.”

You can’t find those times 24×7, but you can look for opportunities to create those kinds of situations in nearly any kind of work – whether it’s your job or a volunteer opportunity.

The Center of the Universe

When you have a job you’ll discover work that puts you, as I say, at the center of the universe. This work may or may not be your passion. But it connects you with a sense of bringing who you are fully forward. Those are assignments where you have these sensations:

  • I loved doing that work.
  • I did an amazing job!
  • I felt strong when I did that work.
  • I’m proud of the work I did on that.
  • It felt like that is the kind of work I should be doing!
  • I make a difference when I do this kind of work.

I always feel that when I speak. Or, when I’m working with a client and they get off the phone saying, “I’m energized just from talking with you!”

And when it comes to making a difference, you don’t need to change the whole world. You simply need to make the world a better place by your actions, in whatever way you can.

Work in Your Strengths

I request all of my job search and career-coaching clients to take a StrengthsFinder assessment. It’s a very simple assessment that tells you your 5 top strength profiles.

I love it for new grads, because it’s 5 words, and corresponding descriptions, that tell a story about you. It allows you to see how to describe yourself in terms of what you are naturally wired to do well, and how those descriptors show up in your life. For most it is an exciting revelation, and validation.

Research shows that when we work in our strengths we are happier, healthier, and more fulfilled in any work we do.

Get your strengths assessment at

Then send me a note and tell me what your top 5 are!

Maybe You’re Born with It, Maybe It Emerges with Time

Is passion something you’re born with, or is it something you nurture through your experience, knowledge, skills, and talents? I vote for the latter.

And all those articles you read about Steve Jobs saying don’t settle? From the Fast Company article by Cal Newport, here’s more about his early story:


If a young Steve Jobs had taken his own advice and decided to only pursue work he loved, we would probably find him today as one of the Los Altos Zen Center’s most popular teachers. But he didn’t follow this simple advice.


Spoiler (in case you didn’t know): He got involved in computing, because he needed the money.

Steve Jobs’ real passion came later, well after he found his niche. Yours can, too.

Yes, passion is important. But isn’t it time for “follow your passion!” to retire as career advice?





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!


Lea McLeod

 About the Author: Lea McLeod is author of the Resume Coloring Book. Check it out if you are struggling with writing your resume in today’s job market. She’s also founder of the Job Success Lab so that you can GO PRO in any job! Follow her on Twitter and her blog:


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