Earlier this year, Amber and Eemusings got me thinking about how much value we put into “finding a career we can be passionate about.” You hear about it all the time: people staying in school for years, or drifting through life, never really finding what it is they can be passionate about. They ponder what their true calling in life could be, and how to turn that into a “dream job.” But for some people, a job will always be just that – a job.
Another one you hear a lot is “do what you love, and the money will follow.” Which might be the case for some, but unfortunately probably isn’t reality for many. If your passion happens to come with a low-paying wage, or irregular/odd hours, you have to make a choice: do you follow your passion with whatever faults it comes with, or do you choose something that you’re lukewarm about, but will offer you the lifestyle and stability that you want?
For me, the turning point came in 2007. I was offered a job 2 steps away from my “ultimate dream job.” The only thing was, I would have to take a 35% pay cut from what I was currently making. It also required irregular hours and plenty of OT (so much that I wouldn’t be able to get a PT job in order to make up the difference in salary). Which meant I had to make a huge decision. Should I sacrifice my other dreams – like owning a home, contributing a large amount to my retirement fund, and going traveling on a regular basis – for this one dream of having what I would consider to be The Perfect Job? Was I willing to make my job a lifestyle choice? Because, essentially, that’s what I would have had to do.
In the end, I chose not to take the job. Which actually surprised me. I always knew that my dream job wasn’t exactly going to be high paying; I just figured I’d find a way to make it work. But when the time came to make that decision, I started to second guess myself. Did I want to spend my life working long hours for a low salary? How important was buying a home of my own, and was retiring early really a goal I wanted to achieve? With the new job, I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things, no matter how much I cut out of my budget. So all of a sudden, The Perfect Job didn’t seem so perfect anymore. It was a hard decision to make, but I had to be realistic with myself.
After much thought, I realized that above all else, I would never be satisfied with my career unless I saw potential to grow my salary as I grew as a professional. And unfortunately, that was the one thing The Perfect Job couldn’t offer me. I wouldn’t call myself ‘passionate’ about marketing or graphic design. But I’m happy at my job and like it enough to do it for the rest of my career. It is the path I chose for its versatility, salary range, and creativity. It offers a little bit of everything that I like, and there’s a great deal of potential upward movement as my career progresses. So while it’s not my “dream job,” it’s as close as I’m going to get to it, while maintaining financial stability and achieving all of my other life dreams. And really, I can’t ask for much more than that.
In 2008, my career choice came into focus again, but in a much bigger way. I somehow landed an interview for my “ultimate dream job.” It was for the exact position with the exact organization I had been dreaming about, and shaping my career towards for literally 10 years. Basically only 30 jobs like this exist in all of North America, and I had an interview with the organization I was coveting the most. But when it came time for them to ask about my salary expectations, I knew that, once again, all of the happiness a job could bring me, would never be enough if I didn’t have the level of financial stability I felt I needed. Because the position is so sought after, they can afford to pay less because there will always be people willing to snap up that opportunity. For years, I thought that person would be me, and I even shocked myself when I didn’t say the salary range I knew I had to say in order to get a second interview. But I’m glad that I learned that about myself early on in my career.
Some people have found a career they are passionate about. Whether they are rich, or poor, or anything in between, they wake up every morning and are absolutely excited to go to work. I honestly think that is incredible, and a really rare thing these days. But it’s unrealistic to believe that can happen to everyone, and I think we put too much pressure on people to find a career like that. There’s nothing wrong with not being in love with your job. You don’t have to feel passionate about everything that you do in your career. You just have to like it enough to want to do it every day.