Ditching the Paycheck vs Passion Dilemma: Smarter Strategies for Career Moves

An "okay" job will only hold you back as much as you let it.

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When considering a new career decision, internal struggles are bound to present themselves.

This uncertainty is typically rooted less in the job itself, and more about whether it’s truly the right fit for us at this time and place.

A prospective role may be ideal from a financial standpoint, but we sometimes fear that it just won’t light that “spark” we crave.

The truth is, it’s time to stop treating the age-old passion vs. paycheck dilemma as a spooky ultimatum.

“Choosing a job with a higher paycheck and benefits is not the same as making a decision to sell your soul to an endeavor that sucks the breath out of your body,” says Dr. Andrea Goeglein, Career and Workplace Psychologist and Founder of ServingSuccess.

Still hesitant about parting ways with your passion? With these trusty techniques, you won’t have to.

Think strategically.

Early in our career, our overarching goal isn’t always as clear-cut as we would like it to be.

We might have a general idea of the type of work we enjoy doing, but ambiguity often exists around the ultimate game plan.

During this phase of “testing the waters,” don’t let yourself feel guilty about following the money.

“It’s a smart strategic decision for the point in your career when you need financial stability and growth,” says Dr. Goeglein.

A certain position might not be your dream job, but it can offer steady support and an enhanced skillset.

This will ultimately help you discover what that “dream job” looks like, and the right direction to get there.

Plus, it’s important to remember that you can always switch gears. If a job doesn’t provide the experience that you envisioned, you have the freedom to move on.

“You will always be free to make other choices if the situation really has no additional redeeming features,” says Dr. Goeglein.

Lead with long-term goals.

We all want to work toward something that we’re passionate about and genuinely enjoy. However, steep competition and high expectations can cause a few bumps in the road.

In these cases, it’s important to avoid getting discouraged and start looking long-term.

“It’s okay to take jobs that aren’t your calling or passion,” says Dr. Goeglein. “Just make sure that there’s a goal associated with it.”

For instance, perhaps you’re looking to become a lobbyist. However, the job openings all require much more experience than you have.

Rather than getting frustrated, start taking baby steps. Try exploring smaller roles at a political campaign or non-profit, and eventually work your way up the totem pole.

A temporary separation from your passion won’t set you back, as long as you keep your long-term goal top-of-mind.

Weave your passion into your current role.

Feeling stuck in your career? Before making any drastic decisions, think about how you can add your passion into the mix.

“You can make a mundane job better by bringing out your natural strengths,” says Dr. Goeglein. “Keep feeding and nurturing the things you care about.”

Maybe you’re interested in becoming a musician, because it brings out your natural strengths of honesty and authenticity.

You might feel that you’re falling behind on this dream by taking a car salesman job, but that’s not the case.

Honesty and authenticity are highly valued when it comes to customer service. Therefore, you’re still playing up those strengths in a slightly different atmosphere.

Plus, you can hone in on relevant skills that will serve your big-picture goal. For instance, work toward becoming a better expert around the sound systems that you’re selling.

“Interests aren’t something you leave at home,” says Dr. Goeglin. “It’s your job to bring them to life.”

At the end of the day, an “okay” job will only hold you back as much as you let it. Your passion might feel slightly out of reach, but you’re not entirely powerless.

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