Is “Follow Your Passion” Good Career Advice?

Every year, as university graduation ceremonies take place, numerous influential speakers emphasize the significance of pursuing one’s passion.

While this advice can be inspiring, I have concerns that it oversimplifies the complexities and practicalities of career development for young individuals entering the workforce.

It brings to mind the infamous commencement speech delivered by the late Steve Jobs to Stanford University graduates in 2005. Jobs advised the students to continually search for work they love and not settle for anything less.

However, despite Jobs’ remarkable success at Apple, his speech drew substantial criticism from those who believed his words misguided many young people towards a life of underemployment in their pursuit of “passionate” work.

In retrospect, perhaps Jobs’ advice could have been more nuanced, emphasizing the acquisition of relevant skills and practical experience to enhance future employability. Additionally, he might have considered that not everyone possesses a clear, easily identifiable passion, especially at a young age.

I propose that the best way to discover one’s passion is through exploring various career paths, honing skills, and excelling in a chosen craft. As proficiency grows in a particular area, passion for it tends to develop naturally.

In all fairness, how can someone know if they will be content as a graphic designer, teacher, or banker without actually experiencing these professions firsthand?

Consider an amateur chef who loves cooking and hosting lavish dinner parties. Is it prudent to encourage them to follow their passion and open a restaurant as a career? Perhaps.

However, on the other hand, if the new owner finds themselves working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, struggling to attract customers and quality employees, they may quickly lose their passion for cooking. They might realize that running a restaurant entails much more than just cooking—it involves customer service, marketing, accounting, business planning, human resources, and safety.

So, is following your passion always beneficial career advice? Here’s my perspective:

If you are fortunate enough to discover work that aligns with your passions and allows you to sustain a decent living, by all means, pursue it. However, don’t spend an excessive amount of time searching for that passion.

You will be better off seeking work that you enjoy and then striving to master your craft. Become exceptionally skilled at what you do. By doing so, you may find that your passion evolves in unexpected and rewarding ways.

The more proficient you become in your chosen field, the more likely you are to develop a genuine passion for your work.