Career, Self-Improvement

Is Passion Overrated? – Vanessa Tai

When it comes to your career, most people would tell you to “Follow your passion”. However, this is increasingly being viewed as unsound career advice. Why?

During a recent work lunch, I had a very interesting conversation with someone from a similar industry. She was sharing with me how the turnover rate among her younger team members is very high, with a lot of them saying they want to “follow their passion”. For some of them, they do a complete career switch and end up thriving in their new position. For the majority though, “following their passion” entails travelling for a bit or and then returning to a regular job before losing their mojo and quitting again.

I can certainly relate to this desire to have a job I was “passionate” about. Back when I was still a bright-eyed student, I was 100 percent convinced that I wanted to pursue Advertising as a career. Yes, I was attracted to the glam factor of the industry but I was also intrigued by how ad folks were able to craft such fascinating stories about individual brands. Even though I knew junior executives in Advertising didn’t earn much, I didn’t care because hey, “it’s my passion!” However, after graduating with a degree in Advertising and working in the industry for over a year, I realised it wasn’t all that it was cut out to be. I was tired of telling the same old brand stories and felt like I wasn’t going anywhere in my career. Apparently, I had lost my “passion”.

After I left Advertising, I found myself in journalism almost by chance. Someone mentioned an opening in a women’s magazine, I applied, got the job … and as they say, the rest is history. Prior to joining the magazine, I had never really considered being a journalist, but surprisingly, it felt like a perfect fit almost from day one. I loved meeting new people and finding out about their lives. I loved figuring out the best way to tell their stories, one that would resonate with whoever was reading it. Of course, it wasn’t all cotton candy and poetic justice. I had my fair share of disappointments and eating of humble pie as a young writer, but that only fuelled my determination to improve myself and my writing.

material world_love my job

Nobody loves their job THIS much … do they?

What I’m trying to say is, to be passionate about your job is not about feelings of excitement or enthusiasm. It’s not so much about “doing what you love” but learning to love what you do. While you definitely shouldn’t be in a job you hate, not everybody goes to work each day feeling pumped up and ready to save the world … AND THAT’S OKAY! Sometimes, a job is just a job and we shouldn’t feel like it is THE thing that will give us that ultimate sense of fulfillment.

It’s more important that your job challenges you and continuously gives you room for growth and development. When you’re too comfortable in your role, it can be easy to become complacent or uninspired. Whatever your job role is, you should always look for ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I’m not exactly the best example of this, but my fellow Material World co-founder Deborah is. She’s a shining example of someone who’s always expanding and improving on her skill-set. Besides writing and editing, she’s taught herself plenty of other skills such as design, website development, and even creating simple mobile applications. I daresay it’s all these little successes that make her love her job the way she does, even on days where things seem bleak or uncertain.

American cartoonist Scott Adams articulates this phenomenon best in a column he wrote for TIME:

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.

But if you want to experience passion, you’ll have plenty of it after success. Over the course of my eclectic career, I have felt excited every time I tried a new business venture. As the venture failed — and most did — my excitement drained away. But for the few that worked, success made me feel something that one might call passion. In other words, success causes passion more than passion causes success.

The next time you feel bored or uninspired at your job, don’t immediately start scrabbling around for a new job. Ask yourself what else can you learn at your present role, or are there skills you can pick up that will take you to the next level in your career? More often than not, passion is not about a change in environment. It’s about a shift in perspective.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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