Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Passion is grossly over-rated.

I promise I'm gonna scream if I hear one more career guru say, "Follow your passion!" Aside from the fact that I don't have a clue what that actually means, it can be misleading, depressing, and downright dangerous for the job seeker who doesn't have it. We see hundreds of students every quarter (sometimes thousands) and it is as predictable as sunrise that several times a day we will have the following conversation with a student.
Student: I'm so confused. I just don't know what I want to do with my life.
Counselor: What do you enjoy?
Student: Well, I enjoy some stuff, but I'm just not passionate about anything.
Counselor: That's okay. Tell me what you enjoy.
Student: Mmmm. You know... stuff, but I don't have a passion and my [insert parents, professors, friends, etc.] tell me that I should only do things that I am passionate about.
Counselor: I understand, but let's start with things you enjoy and are good at.
Student: Okay, maybe, but I'm not passionate about any of those things.
Here's the deal. I am actually pretty passionate about my job. I love working with bright young people. I get stoked when I present a workshop or seminar. I look forward to sitting with students from first years to post-grads as they unravel the mystery of career. When I started my PhD program several years ago, I was asked to be the teaching assistant in the Career Development Theory class. I whined, I moaned, I complained. I was not the least bit interested in career theory and when I had taken the class, it was like weekly root canals. There was, however, a new faculty person assigned to the class and I needed the money from the assistantship. Over the next 15 weeks, I went from absolute annoyance to moderately okay with the class. Ultimately, I TA'd the class two more times and grew certifiably intrigued with career development. In the past 20 years, I have become officially passionate about career development, career counseling, and most of the stuff that goes along with it.

Being excited and enthusiastic is also not being passionate, it's just being excited and enthusiastic. Passion is too often confused with feeling passionate, in the same that love is confused with the feeling of being in love. The take away here is that it is virtually impossible to be passionate about something until you have done it... a lot. For the record, taking a class in something is not the same as doing something. Don't assume that you will never be passionate about something simply because you are not passionate about it now.

That's it. All the stuff you should know about passion and finding it... or not.

1 comment:

  1. I really love this article. When I came out of graduate school, I was determined I wanted to work with adults. I applied to tons of jobs and could barely even get an interview. I finally interviewed for a position providing in-home treatment to children... ughhh. AND I was offered the job... ughhh. I was 5 months pregnant and needed work, so I took it. Long story short, I fell in love with that job and working with children. Eight years later I'm still here and very happy.