Does Work Have to be Your Passion?

Every child has likely heard people tell them to follow their “passion” when looking into job options. But some might argue that there are more important things than passion when it comes to building a successful career. Does work really have to be your passion? The short answer is no. In fact, there are numerous reasons why choosing a passion as your career can actually hinder job satisfaction.


1. It’s a relatively new priority

Despite what parents and teachers will tell you, being passionate about a career is a relatively new idea. Job advice in the 40s and 50s prioritized stability and, according to NPR, it was only during the 70s, 80s, and 90s that this idea of “self-expression” took center stage. The movement likely gained traction due to the volatility of the job market, as well as the fact that workers no longer stayed at one company for their entire careers.

2. Burnout is possible

The idea of doing something you love, day in and day out, sounds like a dream come true. But for many, the passion slowly but steadily seeps out just from sheer repetition—turning the once-loved passion into just another day job. For particularly creative jobs, this can be especially painful. Some people might find it more advantageous to find a stable career and leave their passions as enjoyable hobbies.

3. It can blur the lines

When you do something you’re passionate about as a career, it can oftentimes prevent you from drawing a line between your work life and personal life. You no longer have that drive to join clubs or communities that include people who share your interests. Healthy boundaries are essential to work happiness no matter your field, so separating the two makes sense.

4. Why can you have only one?

People tend to talk about your “passion” as if it’s a one-and-done deal. But people often have more than one passion, so being forced to choose just one as an entire career can be daunting. This advice also doesn’t even take into consideration your possible discovery of a new passion later on in life.



5. It’s a privilege

Sociologist Erin A. Cech tells NPR that “low-income and first-generation college students are much less likely to have the financial safety nets or the springboards from their social networks to translate the things that they love into employment that both aligns with their passion and draws a decent salary.” In other words, choosing passion—even at the expense of stability—simply isn’t possible for many people.

6. What if you change?

Just because you love to draw/write/paint/code when you’re a kid or young adult, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to love it forever. If you’ve built a career out of something you once loved but no longer do, you may find yourself floundering around for a different passion—and panicking if you can’t find one. Jumping from interest to interest does not make for a promising resume.

7. It’s not always feasible

It’s a cold hard truth that passion and talent don’t always go hand-in-hand. In other words, just because you enjoy doing something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be good at it. And if that’s the case, the likelihood of finding professional success in that field is low—setting you up for heartbreak and a stalled career.

“Passion” can be a frustratingly vague idea when it comes to careers. And this whole concept isn’t just a young person’s issue. People of all ages and backgrounds struggle to figure out what exactly they’re passionate about. Most people take years of trying new things to hone in on what they truly enjoy doing—and some people don’t ever find it. But that’s OK—building a solid career that doesn’t do much for you beyond paying the bills can be a path that allows you to find more “passionate” fulfillment elsewhere.

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