Why ‘find your passion’ is bad advice according to this career expert

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CV queen, Victoria McLean, cringes every time she sees career articles that urge people to follow their passion or do what they love. That’s not to say she thinks you should simply accept an unfulfilling job or stick with a career that makes you unhappy or stressed – far from it. As founder and CEO of international careers consultancy City CV, it’s her mission to help people create satisfying, rewarding lives for themselves. But she has three reasons for getting frustrated with the ‘find your passion’ meme. Here she explains why…

They make it sound so easy

“Of course, I’d follow my passion if only I knew what it was!” I hear this from many talented, committed people who are stuck in jobs they don’t enjoy and want to change. It can apply to new graduates, career returners and seasoned professionals. The difficulty is knowing where to start.

When you’re feeling stuck, there’s no easy answer. You can’t sit around waiting for a eureka moment. But, working through a structured process will get you closer to finding out what you really want to do with your life.

Take some time to review what you love and hate about your current and previous jobs. Think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child. What do you read about for fun?

If you start to see certain trends and overlaps, delve deeper and do some detective work to extract the key ingredients. At first, your interests might seem disconnected but play around with them and get some objective advice from a trusted friend or professional careers coach. You’d be amazed at how you can construct a career that combines several (if not all) of your interests. But, it doesn’t always come easily and sometimes it takes an expert to get you unstuck.

One career doesn’t have to fulfil all our needs

What happens if the thing that really lights you up doesn’t feel like a viable career option? For example, I had a client who loved to draw comics. But, we needed to be realistic about whether she could turn this into a career and make an income from it.

After working with one of our career coaches, she concluded that while she could use many of her creative talents – for illustration and design for example – in a commercial setting, she would never pay the mortgage from her comic book income alone. She still creates comics but she does it for the sheer joy of it.

Her passion for comic books has brought other unforeseen career benefits. She’s improved her tech skills, as she created a website to showcase her work. She’s also raised her profile and discovered a talent for public speaking, as fellow designers have lapped up her talks on the creative process at industry events.

It’s too high pressure

Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert has written extensively about the dangers of feeling under pressure to find our passion. Instead, she suggests following your curiosity. It’s an approach we often use in our career coaching.

Not everyone is in a position to just ditch the day job and step into a completely unknown world to follow their passion. You need to be brave to make big changes in your life. That’s why I advocate expanding your comfort zone – by trying new things, learning new skills and going to networking events – rather than leaving your comfort zone completely. You never know where these moves may lead. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards” – but first you have to create some dots.

We all deserve a rich, rewarding life. And I genuinely believe that responsible career coaching can help us to gain clarity and open up new opportunities. But it isn’t always as simple as ‘do what you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life’.

By Victoria McLean

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