In today’s hyperconnected, ever-shrinking world, we’re presented with a seemingly infinite web of opportunities — a fact that’s at once invigorating and utterly overwhelming. Whether we’re facing graduation or just trying to nail down a major, we tend to hear this when seeking advice on choosing a career path: What are you passionate about?

No doubt, the person asking this query has the best of intentions. On the surface, it makes good sense that “passion” should be the root of our professional decisions, since the average person will spend some 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime. However, answering this query — determining your passion and how that relates to your career — can be tricky at best, and misleading at worst. Here, we outline a few considerations that will help you determine how your “passion” plays into your career path.

Passions Can Change

What you’re passionate about today may not be what you’re passionate about five, 10 or 20 years down the road. While there’s surely something to be said on a personal level about nurturing your talents and indulging your interests, putting all of your professional eggs in one basket assumes that you’ll always be passionate about one thing, and that could prevent you from exploring new fields and activities that might open new doors.

Passion Doesn’t Indicate Market Opportunity

Everyone wants to spend their time doing something they enjoy and that makes them feel inspired. But your career is about more than emotional satisfaction. A successful career provides stability and financial security, too. Before you dive into a niche career in pursuit of passion, survey the market. What types of jobs are available? What are the opportunitites for growth? Does the average compensation in this field align with the vision you have for your future lifestyle? If your research indicates that pursuing your passion will leave you underpaid and overworked, it’s likely you won’t find the enjoyment you’re seeking.

Your Passion May Not Align With Your Strengths

Let’s say you’re passionate about music, and you’ve decided to pursue music as a career path. You’ve brainstormed a list of possible jobs you could land with a music degree, and “music teacher” is on that list. However, have you considered how your personal strengths align with the qualities that make a good teacher? Are you passionate about teaching — or just about music? Having your “passion” blinders on can sometimes keep you from truly evaluating the career choice at hand. Make sure you’ve considered all the angles.

Your Passion Will Become Your Job

In an ideal world, building a career around something you’re passionate about is a win-win. You get to do something you love and you get paid for doing it. But making your passion your daily grind can make it just that — a grind. As you debate your career path, remember that a career encompasses more than passion. A fruitful career requires commitment, responsibility, and a willingness to adapt and learn.

Learn From Someone Who’s Been There

If you’re trying to figure out what your career path should look like, a professional mentor can help. Whether you’re pursuing your passion or building the skills for a fruitful career — or both! — you can find a mentor who’s traveled a similar road who can help you figure out where to go from here. 

 

Join the Bear Down Network, a free professional network for Arizona alumni, to easily connect with a local professional mentor.