Follow Your Bliss (And Other Terrible Career Advice)
You’ve probably come across that famous career quote by Steve Jobs, the one telling you not to settle, to do what you love. Although this piece of advice earned Jobs a standing ovation at the Stanford commencement, his own career does not reflect this approach. If Steve Jobs had taken his own advice, Apple never would have happened.
It’s a contemporary take on the ill-advised mantra from the 80’s: Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. And it’s just as abstract and unhelpful today as it was back then. There are countless versions of this false notion.
- Follow your dreams!
- Leap and the net will appear!
- Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!
No matter which way you say it, it amounts to career advice gone horribly wrong.
The truth is, the money doesn’t always follow, your dreams are sometimes unrealistic, the net does not always appear, and loving what you do doesn’t exempt you from actually working. These persistent fallacies and the expectations and pressure they create do not lead people to job satisfaction. Instead they perpetuate the false belief that anything less than a constant state of bliss at work means you are wasting your life.
Which isn't true. Not remotely.
It’s not that I’m opposed to dreams, joy and passion. The opposite extreme, that work should be nothing more than time exchanged for money, misses the mark as well.
Somewhere in the middle lies the key to finding the right career fit.
So what do you want to be when you grow up?
What a limiting question. No matter how old you are, I hope you don’t know yet.
Don’t try to decide on a career for the rest of your life. How could you ever do that? Some jobs that existed when I was a child don’t exist anymore and many more don’t exist yet.
Instead of asking the daunting “What should I do with my life?!”
Try: What should I do next?
Keep your options open, always. And don’t start the process by asking: what do I love to do? What you "love to do" might not equal the right career. For example, I love writing. Always have. But when I had a freelance writing practice I was miserable, stressed out and broke. I was focused on deadlines and invoices instead of my family. What had once been my bliss (writing) became just another grind. Because for me, full time writing was not the right career fit.
Now writing is a small part of my job and a big part of my free time. I love it again. And I found a career that gives me the work/life balance that enables me to write for myself.
My mistake was thinking that just because I love doing something that I should make a career out of it. Tweet this!
- What kind of life do I want to create?
- What abilities do I have that are valuable in the workplace?
- How can I become more engaged and excited in my life and where does work fit in?
I don’t know about you, but I have more than one passion! Most passionate people do. And there are lots of ways I express that, in work and in life.
Successful people know that the right livelihood is more than just about likes and dislikes. It’s about a deeper joy and sense of wellbeing that comes from supporting yourself, making a contribution, and enabling a wide range of dreams and passions to be possible.
Stop obsessing about your bliss and your passion, and start right now to leverage happenstance and nurture personal and professional growth. Stop fixating on what you “love to do” and focus on the life you want to build and how work and dedication (and maybe a few things you don’t love to do) could enable that vision.
Michele Murphy is the Alumni Career Educator at alumni UBC. For support at every stage of your career development process, visit us often on alumniubc.ca/careers, follow us on Twitter @alumniUBCcareer, and connect with Michele on Linked In. Discover your next step.