Finding your passion is not terrible career advice

When we talk about passion@work we talk about ‘fit’. If we trivialize the importance of dedication, we devalue enthusiasm and energy in the workplace. Suggesting that someone follow their passion is not bad career advice.

Yesterday, New York Post journalist Mackenzie Dawson added her voice to the doubters.

“But for all its good intent, “Find your passion” can actually be pretty lousy career advice — and it usually doesn’t leave people feeling as though they’re any closer to finding something they really like doing.

The problem with “finding your passion” is that it’s completely overwhelming — kind of like starting the next Facebook — and face it, most of us aren’t the next Mark Zuckerberg. That’s because the idea of “finding your passion” is completely overwhelming — kind of like heading off to “paint the Sistine Chapel” or “start the next Facebook.”

Her argument is that this advice sets folks up to fail. OK. But how do you learn if you don’t try? And, BTW, most of us embark on passions that are far more manageable than starting the next Facebook. I’m reminded of a conversation I had at a reception a couple of weeks ago with a NYC charter school principal who has found her bliss and whose excitement was downright contagious.

This is what finding your passion is about: finding that place@work where you learn, grow and thrive.

Ms. Dawson’s article found support in quotes from recruiting firm ReWork co-founder, Nathaniel Koloc.

“A lot of people don’t know what their passion is — it’s a monolithic way to describe a career. Also, careers don’t work like that directly,” says Nathaniel Koloc, co-founder of the progressive recruiting firm ReWork. “Your career grows as you learn to give more value. Also, it’s misleading to imply that simply because you like to do something, other people will value it enough to pay you. At the end of the day, you’re talking about the marketplace.”

Instead of the dreaded P-word, Koloc recommends approaching your career choices from a different perspective, and asking yourself two main questions: “Where will I learn more?” and “Where will I provide more value?”

Not sure the charter school principal would agree, and I would offer that her workplace offers both lifelong learning, and adds significant value to the lives she touches daily. A calling, career is not always about the marketplace.

No one would offer advice to knowingly set someone up for failure. Success is an evolution built on learning and experience. Passion and value and learning are not mutually exclusive terms.

One more thing. Mr. Koloc currently serves as the Director of Talent and Acquisition & Development for ‘Hillary for America’. I always thought that political campaigns were the vortex of commitment and passion @work.

Telling someone to pursue their dream is never bad advice. Suggesting they understand the financial implications of their decision is prudent. Doing what you love is priceless.

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