We've been told time and time again to "follow our passions" by various business people and celebrities, from Donald Trump to Steve Jobs.
Jobs once said,
It [what you choose to do] has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.
To counter this argument, Cal Newport, a professor at Georgetown University, said,
... passion is found by first building a rare and valuable talent and using it to take control of your career path.
I think you can meet in the middle if you're smart about it. Passion clearly isn't enough in an economy where 50 percent of millennials are either unemployed, underemployed or have given up on their job search completely.
This year, new research reveals the gap between passion and job vacancies. First, Pew Research found that 37 percent of students majored in liberal arts or education instead of engineering and computer information systems.
I partnered with Beyond.com to conduct another study to identify which majors companies are hiring and we found that only 2 percent are actively recruiting liberal arts majors.
In fact, almost half of all generations, from Gen-Yers to boomers, say that there are no jobs for liberal arts majors. Passion becomes a dead end if you don't know how to make money from it. Millennials can be unrealistic with their careers and overly optimistic when they need to be realistic.
There are three aspects of a "dream career" that need to be accounted for. First, there's passion for what you do. This passion comes from something you experience in which you have particular interest.
I always judge real passion by seeing if someone is able to write one article a day or read one book a week on a topic about which he or she is passionate. Passion, of course, doesn't always translate into a business or full-time position at a company.
The second aspect you must keep in mind is where your strengths exist. Double down on your strengths and avoid your weaknesses, unless they get in the way of your goals. Your passion, if you put enough work into mastering a topic or skill, could become a strength.
We all have innate abilities that can be used to potentially make us money in some capacity. Your biggest strength allows you to stand out in a job search and in the office — you can solve problems with it and help other people in the process.
The combination of passion and strength will make you feel good about working hard instead of seeing work as a chore.
The final aspect to consider is the marketplace. Research which companies are hiring, what types of positions are available and how much money are they paying for each position.
Places where you can research open positions are Indeed.com (for full-time positions) or oDesk.com (for freelancing) and a slew of other platforms. Learn how much a typical position pays on PayScale.com.
A new study between my company and Randstad found that most Gen-Yers expect to work for about five companies in their lifetimes.
As you grow, your interests might change and the market will change as well, so your job is to stay on top of those changes and try and match up your passions and strengths to the roles for which you apply as best as you can.
Sometimes, you might not luck out. You might have to do passion projects outside of your full-time job because no one will currently pay you for your passions.
Those are sacrifices you must make in order to eventually position yourself for opportunities that are more aligned with who you are and the value you produce. It took me more than three years to turn my passions into a business and it's evolved over time.
Roll with the punches and always think about how to align your passions and strengths with market opportunities.
Dan Schawbel is the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, now in an expanded paperback edition.
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