There is a great deal of talk these days about the importance of finding a job you love. Seems like every blog I read, every personal development web site, every talk show is talking about pursuing your passion and making a living doing it. But CareerBuilder.com says that 84% of all workers are not currently employed in their dream job. Businessweek even looked at this phenomenon in their January 21, 2008 issue, called The Perils of Following Your Bliss. I’ll address some of the points in that article.
You should always strive to insure that your personality characteristics line up well with your occupation. If you’re a “people person,” you won’t be happy in a two person office where one is the boss and you’re the other one. If you love crunching numbers, you probably won’t be happy working the sales floor at a department store in the mall. If you enjoy being creative and in control, you will not be happy working on an assembly line. The thing to remember is that every one of these positions exactly matches up with someone else’s personality traits. The key is to find out what you enjoy and then find a position that aligns with your personality. To find out more about yourself, read Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself.
In an ideal world, following your passion would be great. We could all make a living at home, blogging away, or hiking in the mountains, or making cute little jewelry boxes, or raising dachshunds. The problem is, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in the real world. IT IS possible to love what you do, but I think all the talk about “following your passion” is a little overdone. Here’s why:
What you enjoy on a small and personal level can easily become a mechanical, boring, and frustrating experience on a large scale, the scale that you’ll need to replace your income. If you enjoy turning small pieces of wood into beautiful pens, how would you like to do that 10 hours per day for five or six (or seven) days per week? How would you like to pursue the sales opportunities with retailers and distributors, the accounting, the receivables, the payables, collecting on past dues, dealing with suppliers, and handling employees? Sure, if you’re selling 1,000,000 units per month you can afford to outsource a lot of the office management, but it will take a long time to get there.
The drop in income can be catastrophic if you’re not well capitalized. Is there enough demand for your passion to support your need for a full time income? How much demand is there for ceramic bluebirds? Is there a demand for your personal experience with Human Resources? Once you spend the marketing money to get your name publicly known, will there be anything left? Don’t make a move based on emotion. It’s embarrassing to go crawling back.
You’ll probably have to forgo some things you’re used to having. You’ll probably going to say goodbye to vacations for several years. You’ll have to get your own medical insurance, retirement investments, pay your employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare, and you’ll give up the interaction you currently have with co-workers and others in your current job. Are you willing to do that? Is your spouse and family willing to do that?
People DO get to “follow their passions” . . . sometimes. We’ve all heard the stories of people who loved a particular activity or subject and parlayed that into a full time income. The fact is, they are far fewer that many are willing to admit. Many times, human nature refuses to see the truth behind these statistics. Most businesses fail. Just because someone can bake a really good New York Cheesecake doesn’t mean they should quit work and start a catering business. Just because they have a fantastic ability to get “buy in” from line employees doesn’t mean they should quit work and start a consulting business.
The key is to acquire business knowledge, marketing knowledge, and accounting knowledge as well as the product knowledge that comes from your natural interest in the subject. You’ll also need to investigate what the competition does, understand how they present their offerings in the market, and identify their strengths and weaknesses? Can your strengths overcome their strengths? Do you have a weakness where they have a strength?
I’m not trying to talk anyone out of pursuing their dream. But there needs to be a large dose of realism when it comes to “following your passion.” The key question is: have you done your homework? Just knowing what you love to do is not enough. You must know everything that goes along with it or have partners that do.
If you feel comfortable with the sacrifices you’ll have to make and you have the product knowledge as well as the business knowledge to succeed, the let me get out of the way. Raise the money and follow your dream. But don’t think it will be easy and don’t say you weren’t warned. If you do your homework and you have made your life adjustments for becoming an entrepreneur or with changing jobs to one you’ll love, you have to potential to become one of the few that succeeds.
You should not stay in a job you despise or one where your stomach churns every time you think about going to work. But don’t march in on Monday and quit without having something else lined up either. You may be able to find something you’re passionate about in your present occupation.
I work in the housing industry ( I know, it’s hurting right now). There are a lot of things I don’t like about it. It’s cyclical. It utilizes trade credit and I have to collect money from people. There are too many layers of people between upper management and the customer. It uses commodity products whose costs change hourly. Why do I stay in it? For one thing, I know and understand it better than any other industry. Second, I love being involved with building homes. I love the smell of pine sawdust and watching the physical progress of a home being constructed. I love being able to see progress. Third, there’s always a large number of new products coming online that are innovative and exciting. And fourth, I love the competitive environment and getting a competitor’s customer to buy from me instead.
If you’re unable to “follow your passion” for whatever reason, find what you DO like about your current job and remind yourself daily of those positive things. Happiness can be and should be based on your attitude toward life, not based on your circumstances.
[tags]life, blog, weblog, personal, job, reality, pursue dream, passion[/tags]