The economic news is encouraging for the about-to-graduate college class of 2015, said Yahoo Business Finance correspondent Mandi Woodruff on her Personal Finance web-based video show. These Millennials have weathered The Great Recession and are launching their adulthood into a slightly improving job market for their demographic. Woodruff was interviewing Alexandra Levitt, the workplace consultant, subject matter expert to the media, author, and career coach. Levitt is one of the founders of JobSTART 101, an online resource for college students and graduates who are looking for guidance in finding their first job, navigating the new economy, and identifying their career paths.
Levitt is well versed in this demographic and the challenges they face in starting their careers. Her advice for both the new-to-the-job millennials and the receiving business’ management is usually spot-on. However, her March advice on the role of passion in career did not sit well with me. But then you would expect that from my “passionate-about-passion” perspective.
Levitt believes “passion is overrated.” She said, “I think what’s dangerous is when we as career advisors tell people they won’t be happy until they find their passion. It puts pressure on people to go out and find this elusive career of passion […] and they can’t be happy with the job they have. Just because you have a passion doesn’t mean you can or should make a living at it […] There is a reason they call ‘work, work’ and ‘fun, fun.’ […] Find a job you like well enough. You’re not going to love every minute of every day, but you want to genuinely get some satisfaction out of it. And then leave time for other things in life that are important, like your personal life, hobby, friends and family.”
Well, that advice is a bummer, isn’t it?
I wish I could have asked Ms. Levitt if in her current roles as workplace consultant, subject matter expert to the media, author, and career consultant, she was merely “satisfied” as she went about her workday? Was she in a hurry to finish her interview and go have ‘’fun”? If so, that seems to me to be even more tragic. If I was a millennial, I might want to seek out advice from someone more passionate about how they spend their days (See last month’s February blog), especially now that work is consuming more hours than ever. Especially, now that work life and personal life are no longer distinctly separated, but blended, in our always on, always connected, 24/7 world.
The problem I see with this online and in print meme of “passion is overrated,” or “passion is bad advice for graduates” is that this advice is coming from “experts” who know as little about passion as the people they are advising. It is their ignorance of exactly what passion is and how to utilize passion as a constructive element in the development of both a person’s character and their career. I cannot recall ever saying to my clientele, “If you don’t find your passion and make your passion match your job/career you will be miserable.” If career advisors or commencement speakers or columnists or parents are dispensing this advice, let’s start an online campaign to say, “Stop it!”
Instead, we should see passion as that inner spirit that lies within each of us. Once we identify it in ourselves, we see it as strength, connect with it and leverage it. It can become our north star, our guiding force, or energy source as we go to a job or just go about our day. Yes, some of us are lucky to make our career and passion one-in-the-same. Yet, that is not the only formula to apply passion to work and find not merely “satisfaction,” but also something much more.
A woman I once met, now into her encore years, has been a teacher, an administrator of radio and TV licenses, a film producer, an author, a corporate manager, a community leader, and more. Not exactly a straight-line career path, but one in which she built a portfolio of transferable skills. She explained that she used her self-knowledge of and connection to her passion in every one of the jobs she ever held and uses it today and every day in most interactions. In her case her passion is, she explained, “to help individuals discover the potential in themselves to solve their life’s challenges and become the best person they can be.” She went on to say, “Of course you can see that connection in my first role as a teacher, but in many of my other roles my passion was not exactly listed in the job responsibilities. I was once on an airplane when a young man in his late 20’s sat down in the seat next to me. Our plane’s departure was delayed for almost an hour because of the weather. As we waited for take off we talked about this and that and as so often happens to me, he began to share his narrative about why he had been in the departure city and how he was facing a career crisis that was becoming a personal crisis. Because I was connected to my passion, I sort of smiled inside, for I saw the serendipity in this chance meeting. I listened to him explain his problem. I asked questions to guide his thinking. We sorted through his issues the entire flight. By the time we landed at our destination, his demeanor had changed. He was not longer stressed and defeated, but instead energized and confident he had worked through his problem and now knew exactly what to do. As we disembarked he thanked me for listening and we both went on our ways in different directions. As I walked to my waiting transportation, I could not help but smile on the outside. I knew that my passion to help people find the answers that may already be inside them, had once again been fulfilled. What I did for this young man, I did many times over in my daily interactions with the people I worked with at my many jobs. There is a feeling I get when this happens that is like no other.”
My passion is passion. I study it. I measure it. I apply it. To all the career counselors, commencement speakers, columnists, media mavens and parents, educate your self about passion and its role.
We need to give the millennials, future generations, and anyone who is looking for it (i.e., mid-career changers, encore career seekers, and returning military personnel), the information and the tools to uncover their passion and apply it in ways that help them navigate the work world and the world at large. The goal should not be to just get by and make it through a miserable or sort of satisfying day so one can get to the fun stuff. Instead, the goal should be to have enough self-awareness of what drives the self and enough guidance to create their own strategy and tactics for applying their unique passion to opportunities—big and small—as they navigate daily life. No, every day will not be a big passion day. Yet, we can teach people from their first jobs to their encore careers that every day they should be looking for the ways to connect with their passion and use that knowledge to contribute something back into the world. When they do, they will get that “feeling that is like no other.” It will be a good day at the office!
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Lori Palm is the founder and CEO of Core Passion Inc., a global leader in the measurement and application of passion to career/workforce development and life’s decision-making; corepassioncareerseeker.com; corepassion.com