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The Only Career Advice You Need (Or, Why Following Your Passion is Actually a Good Idea)

Maybe it isn't necessary to spend hours and hours searching for the "perfect job"--one graduate's advice to her former self, and young college graduates today.

Photo by Bruno Bergher on Unsplash

When I was in college, I believed that what I needed to do was find the perfect job. 

I spent hours scouring job postings; I copy-pasted job descriptions that seemed interesting into a Word Document; I attended career fairs. I even took an online career suitability test, which delivered surprisingly insightful results for a 10-minute internet quiz. 

After almost 10 years, what I have come to realize is this: there is no “perfect” job out there. That idea has fallen by the wayside for me, like Santa Claus or the belief that my life would be figured out by age 30. 

If I could go back and speak to my 20-year-old self or to young graduates today, my only piece of advice would be: get to know yourself. Work on your strengths and help them to shine, and get to know your weaknesses too, so that they don’t bring you down in the workplace.  

As one of my favorite authors, Joyce Meyer, said:  

“On a scale of one to ten, I might be a three when it comes to playing a piano. Now, if I were to practice long and hard—and if my husband could put up with the racket—I could, maybe, transform myself into a middle-of-the-road, level-five pianist. However, as a public speaker, I might be an eight. So, if I invested my time and effort into this ability, I might just be able to get to a level ten. When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see where you need to invest your efforts.” 

In college, I went through a brief phase as a business major, because I believed this would help me “make money.” I wasn’t interested in the course work—in fact, I could barely stay awake in most classes—and I didn’t do well in them either. It just wasn’t something I’m good at. It still isn’t, and I barely get my taxes done every year.  

But pursuing my real interest of being an English major was out, because of the ever-present question, “What will you do with that?” 

Well, after taking a detour to graduate with a psychology degree, perhaps in an attempt to better understand my own mind, here I am as a writer. 

Which brings me to the second point of this article: it isn’t necessary to spend hours trying to find the perfect job or to pick a career based on what you think will bring external gains such as fame or money. And there’s never going to be a job that meets every single criteria that we think we want. Life has a way of working out differently than how we may imagine it.

Sure, it’s important to look up things like how to write a good cover letter and résumé. But ultimately, get to know who you are, identify what you are good at and enjoy doing, and figure out how to make a career out of it. If you do this, if you focus on developing and showcasing your talent, the right job for you will sort itself out (notice I said “right,” not “perfect”).  

Consider the most successful entrepreneurs in our society, such as Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. They don’t do their work to make money—in fact, both were college dropouts. They left the traditional path to do things they were passionate about, and through this, they managed to create incredible products and advances in technology, and generated financial success as a byproduct. 

Think about, even, doctors and lawyers, two stereotypically “successful” careers.  

What kind of doctor do you want? Do you want someone who is bored and harried, who doesn’t listen to you and hurries you out the door to get to the next patient? Or do you want someone who genuinely loves to interact with patients, who listens to you and wants to help you get well? 

Do you want a lawyer who doesn’t care about the success of your case as long as they’re getting paid, or do you want someone who will spend the time and effort in creating a successful argument for you? 

I’ve heard some opinions that the idea of “following your passion” is only for the wealthy—and yes, if your passion is to lie on a beach in Bali with umbrellas in your drink, that’s probably not attainable for the majority of the population; and there are certainly various barriers in this country to success.  

Yet I do believe that everyone is born with a particular talent or aptitude for work, a unique perspective that only you have; even if it is being a really great bus driver.

And yes, maybe you could become a doctor, or a lawyer, or whatever career you believe will make you successful. Maybe you could even make a good living doing this and be okay at it—a “middle-of-the-road level-five,” if you will. And there’s also nothing wrong with pursuing a hobby on the side and taking a regular job to support yourself. 

However, one of the most common statements I see from new graduates, and people everywhere, is wanting to “change the world” or “help people.” 

Consider that maybe, just maybe, the best way to do that is to use your talents and gifts and put them out there in the world, no matter what you have to do to make it work. Maybe you will touch someone struggling with the same problem that you are, or create an invention to help break down plastic, or become an incredible photographer. Perhaps it is sharing, connection, and creativity that the world needs more of, and by daring to follow your passion, you will fill a you-sized hole in the universe just waiting for you to step into it. 

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