Beware Over-Simplistic Career Advice

I have had a flurry of conversations over the last few weeks where people have shared some of the wisdom that they’ve taken as their primary job-seeking philosophy. I hate to say it but given that your career is likely to be where you spend a lot of your time, it’s probably best to avoid being over-simplistic. 


  • Do What You're Good At
  • Follow Your Passion/Do What You Love, 
  • Don’t Worry about Money, 
  • Money Should Be Your Goal 
  • The Right Job will Show Up 

Sorry, but they’re all a bit overly simplistic. Here’s why…

Do What You're Good At

Why people gravitate towards this? In my experience people gravitate towards this because it seems logical. If I am good at something it seems like I should get paid for it. Also, it often works that people started by getting paid for doing something where they think that they have skills or where someone said to them they should get paid for doing X or “I would hire you for doing X.” 

Why this is problematic? Just because you are good at something does not mean that you enjoy it. That’s actually a pretty common complaint that I hear from people when they are looking to do something new. Even if you do enjoy it, you might be in an area that prohibits your ability to learn or do things that you are curious about. Also, that thing that you are ‘good’ at may have a lower salary range. Finally, many people are good at multiple things. You may have gone all in one one area, but other areas of strength might atrophy or never be given the opportunity to grow. 

Follow Your Passion/Do What You Love

Why people gravitate towards this? Bias warning, I think that many people who adopt this mindset happen to have read certain authors / thought leaders or have a friend living their passion or love work life who has given them some casual advice. I think the average person wants to believe that this is true and possible. It is the very hopeful and affirming version of getting paid for what you are good at. 

Why this is problematic? Many of the things that people are most passionate about (ie. creative and artistic work, things associated with hobbies like sports or recreation) can be extremely competitive thereby requiring a level or risk, or are salaried at a fairly low level for 99% of people who do them.The level of risk associated with pursuing something like this, and the odds of being a success are not something most people can tolerate given their financial obligations or their emotional well-being. It can feel better to have your passion or love play a role in your life without an expectation of money.      

Don’t Worry about Money

Why people gravitate towards this? There is a very tiny group of folks who have familial wealth, a partner who covers them both or are in a place of financial independence given prior success professionally. Many people who want to have a social impact believe they shouldn’t concern themselves with money because the good they want to do matters most.  

Why this is problematic? If you are all set to meet your financial obligations given your situation, that's amazing. I’ve known some people who have found that not caring about how much they made might have made people who they worked for not take them as seriously, but that’s an issue of interest to a tiny amount of people. To my non-profit friends who say that money doesn’t matter, but hope to have a family, buy a home, have a retirement, perhaps have savings to give to someone in the future and perhaps even take a vacation. You know that money is what makes all of that possible. It need not be the most important thing depending upon your situation, but it is always going to be a factor that will determine your choices. AND, you deserve to get paid what you are worth too for doing work that improves the lives of others.

Money Should Be Your Goal

Why people gravitate towards this? It is a pretty consistent message in our culture that you should get paid and that even though the song might say Mo Money Mo Problems, most people don’t see it that way.  

Why this is problematic? I think every person needs to have a minimum and a comfortable salary number to work from. As I shared, your income matters. However, oftentimes people place themselves in deeply unhappy situations where many of the attributes they might want in a role, boss or culture are misaligned and they are riding a mechanical bull trying to hang on for as long as possible. When you elevate the importance of money it often means you allow other considerations to be set aside – and sooner or later those ignored factors may force you to leave. 

The Right Job will Show Up

Why people gravitate towards this? It instructs you to do nothing, but wait patiently.  Most of these people have gotten their last job through fate and have decided that this must be how it works.

Why this is problematic? Just because I got that mochaccino for free because someone paid it forward that one time doesn’t mean I go to the coffee shop each  time without my credit card. Most of life and work has a bit of getting out of it what you put in. You are putting in nothing. No networking. No crowdsourcing via your friend group. That’s super risky, from where I sit. 

Thanks for reading. If you are someone who uses one of the approaches above, I hope the advice above will help you reevaluate your process. And remember, I’m not a nay-sayer. I think it’s good that you’re reflecting on how to navigate your career. I just encourage you to dig a little deeper into that process and see what you might find.

Russ Finkelstein [] is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor.  A career coach, social entrepreneur, and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship, and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website and was chosen as a Generation Z Influencer by LinkedIn.


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