Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Are you passionate about your career?

When I was in high school, I was told by my parents and teachers to find a career based on what I was passionate about. Choosing a career path is a lot to ask of a 17 or 18 year old, and people often stay in school for years, get multiple degrees, leave jobs to get re-educated, or drift aimlessly, 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 the Dream Job. But for some people – me included – 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 a few very lucky people, but unfortunately probably isn’t reality for many. If your passion happens to come with a low-paying wage, irregular/odd hours, or some other major issue, 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?

I chose not to pursue my passion because it did not align with the lifestyle I wanted for myself, and I learned that in 2007 – just one year after graduating college. I was offered a job that was two steps away from my Ultimate Dream Job. The only thing was, I’d have to take a 35% pay cut from what I was making at the time. It also required irregular hours, and plenty of OT (so much that it would be impossible to get a part-time job in order to make up the difference in salary). I wanted the job, but I couldn’t justify it. I would have to sacrifice my other dreams – like early retirement, owning a home, and traveling regularly – just to have what I would consider The Perfect Job. Essentially, I’d have to make my job my lifestyle choice.

In the end, I turned down the job. Which actually surprised me. I always knew The Perfect Job for me wasn’t exactly going to be high paying, I just always figured I’d find a way to make it work. But when the time came to actually 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 traveling to me, 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.

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. It would always be low-paying, even at the highest level. So I chose a different path.

I am not passionate about my day job. Don’t get me wrong, I like marketing a lot. I think I’m pretty good at it, and it makes me happy enough that I hope to work in this field 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 I like, and there’s a great deal of potential upward movement as my career continues to progress. 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 goals as well. And really, I can’t ask for much more than that.

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, and you don’t have to feel passionate about everything that you do in your career to feel fulfilled. You just have to like it enough to want to do it every day.

Are you passionate about your job?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Jennifer says:

    I too have a job I really like, but am not passionate about. I am content to have a full life, with lots of non-work activities I enjoy and also benefit from the stable employment and pretty good salary and pension my job gives me.

  2. Cass says:

    I liked this post. I imagine you’ll get flack for it, but I agree with a lot of your points.
    I too don’t work my dream job, however I’m really good at my job, have been promoted numerous times, and make what I consider a very good salary. My job is sometimes stressful, and long hours. However, I come home to a house I love, have the ability to buy good food and I travel whenever and wherever I want.
    I look at it this way: I work to live I don’t live to work.

  3. Chelsea says:

    This is a great post.Finding something that you’re good at that allows you to have a lifestyle you want is a much more realistic and ultimately fulfilling goal than finding a passion.

  4. Kate says:

    Hmm. Lots to think about.

    I actually am really passionate about my career. That said, I think there are more than a few contributing factors.

    The first is that I “lucked out” to some extent, and one of my chosen passions doesn’t mean I have to go broke pursuing it.

    The second is that I would agree that high school is way too early to be pushing the passion thing. Sometimes (I would argue most of the time) you won’t have deep enough knowledge of the industry you’re considering or the options that may be available in it until after you’ve spent X number of years in the trenches.

    Related to that is that both passions and industries change. What is possible now won’t necessarily be available (or profitable) 20 years from now, and the flip side is also true. I have one colleague who was in an okay job, just trying to pay the bills and trudge through to retirement. Turns out her real passion is social media and how social media has the potential to completly turn our industry on its head. That wasn’t an option to her 20 years ago, but now she’s an industry leader and loving it.

    Finally, if a teenager was asking me about it, I’d urge them to think very broadly about their “passions”. Certainly the way I thought as a teenager, I would have taken that advice to mean “I love making jewelry, so I should be a jewelry designer!” rather than thinking “okay, I love making jewelry. What do I love about it? Well, I love working with my hands. I love doing custom designs for my friends and family-why is that? Well, it’s because I like the problem-solving aspect of pairing up Aunt Jane with the dangly earrings she prefers but also sourcing nickel-free hardware since she’s allergic. Maybe I should look at careers that would allow me to work with my hands and a lot of latitude to problem solve”.

  5. Lindsay VanSomeren says:

    I don’t have a job that I’m passionate about right now. In fact, I downright despise my job, and I’m in this situation because there actually are no jobs in my area doing the thing that I want to do.

    I have options – I can take a low- (or no-) paying temporary internship. That won’t work for me though, not with student loan debt from 10 years of college and a husband who’s currently attending, to boot.

    So instead, I’m looking for other opportunities.

    I wish I would have read about your story years ago! :)

  6. NZ Muse says:

    I am!

    And yet, I am definitely not in the DWYL camp. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite.

    I should emphasise that my passion has changed over the years and my career reflects that. But I am lucky to be able to honestly say all of the jobs I’ve held have been dream jobs.

    Journalism was my first passion but even finances aside (which were definitely a reason for leaving the field) I don’t think I would have stayed. One, it’s a shrinking field and two, I get bored easily.

  7. I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about my job at the moment and finance was never a field I thought I would end up in but I’m finding that the longer I’m working and the more I grow in my job the more I really do enjoy it.

    Plus, it gives me the time (and money) to do things I am passionate about.

  8. Dayna says:

    Sometimes I wonder if an outlook on a job is simply correlate with how people view life. Perhaps those that love everything and think everything is awesome are more likely to find their “dream job” — for me I think I’m a realist — I see the fault in things and understand the pros and cons of my employment – like where I am but do understand that as with every job I have had there are shortcomings or sacrifices. I am just not a I love everything kind of person and therefore don’t think such thing as a “dream job” exists – for me anyways.

  9. Debtman says:

    I can’t say I’m passionate about my job. It’s a good position, with a good salary, benefits, and pension. But it’s an office 9-5 job, and I dream of the day where I can work on my own schedule. I’d love to get into freelancing.

  10. SP says:

    I am. I’ve had a bunch of opinions on this throughout my career. When I started out, my answer was “no, but I enjoy it and am good at it, and the important thing is to create a life you love (not just a job)” I still agree with the second half of that.

    Later, I assumed I could bring my passion into any job, and the job wasn’t that important (Seth Godin inspired though – your job doesn’t have to match your passion, you can match your passion to your job). I agree with that to a point, but after being in a job that was fundamentally a bad fit for about a year, I realized that was not universally true. There are some limits.

    Now, I am very passionate about what I do. I don’t know if it is for the best. Sometimes it would be better to tone my passion down a notch as it relates to how I feel about my work. That said, I would still be perfectly happy with my life if I merely enjoyed and was good at my job. The passionate thing is a happy surprise that I’ve lucked into after spending a lot of time in this career, not something I demand. If this job wasn’t also a good job in terms of lifestyle and salary, I would seek the job that meets my overall life requirements – not do something just because I was “passionate” about it. However, there are certainly higher paying career paths that I have not and will not pursue. Because more income has its limits in influencing total life happiness, and this job more than fills those needs.

    I also think it is partially a case of bringing passion to the job at hand, but I now realize that is only possible under certain conditions.

  11. Karen says:

    While I like my job and the perks it has a LOT better than my previous job, I can’t say I absolutely love it. However, I like it and am happy with it for the time being.

    I’d say I’m more passionate about blogging and my fitness instructor job.

  12. Work2Live says:

    For the vast majority of us, career passion is a dangerous myth used by folks to pretend that they don’t have to spend the majority of their day doing something for the resources they need to survive. Some people actually do jobs where they help people in need or create things that help humanity in general, and I could see how that would be a true passion. The rest of us stare at screens while typing documents and e-mails from our rolling chairs, take calls and have meetings, and spend all day around people we might not want to even be around in any other context.

    All this bandying about of the notion of career passion makes young folks feel like something is wrong with them when, at their first career-oriented job, they find out that doing a bunch of things you are told to do by someone else for the profit of a corporation isn’t some amazing experience in self-actualization or personal fulfillment. It makes established professionals chase goals that they think will bring the happiness they haven’t yet achieved and keeps them chasing it and putting in a few more hours here and there even if it means they are a little less present or available for their loved ones. It makes it normal for half of salaried full-time employees to work 50 hours a week or more in the US where I live because you can always be replaced by a passionate person who loves what they do enough to not mind the extra hours [].

    The fact is that if jobs were fun, they wouldn’t have to pay us. However, they do pay us because jobs are not generally a pursuit of passion. In fact, I would would actually pay someone else in support of doing something I’m passionate about. Would anybody here claiming their job is their passion pay to do it? I’m not talking about some part or skill component of it, but the whole thing like they do now. Would anybody pick up 10 or 20 hours of their job a week as a hobby of passion while doing something else to make a living? No? Then I’ve got bad news.

    “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” –Inigo Montoya

  13. kejing says:

    I’m not passionate about my job but I’m passionate about entrepreneurship. I find it hard sometimes to wake up to do whatever job I need to do, but I also remind myself at the end of the day that whatever I’m working on will bring me one step closer to my goal.

    Also, you may not like whatever you’re doing at the moment. But once you get better at it, your passion for it will develop.

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