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Should the idea of "do what you love" change in relevance to career searching change depending on your experience?

The notion of "do what you love" is a common idea behind a lot of answers, but I was wondering what should be the extent of this advice as relevant when you are first entering the job market verses when you are more experienced? #career-path #job-market #interests

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Jared’s Answer

Many people are going to tell you to do what you love, and they're right for many reasons. I'm going to give you another piece of advice to consider: "Don't starve." I'm serious. You need a roof over your head, you need decent food that keeps you nourished and alert, and you need to stay out of any dangerous financial situations that might put you at risk of being in a bad position. If you have those things, then I agree that you should then focus on doing what you love, because that will bring you joy. But if you are seriously worried about making ends meet (having enough income to pay for your monthly expenses), then focusing on solving that needs to be your number one and only priority. I'll tell you that when I was in college, I focused on getting a degree that I knew would help me get a job. I lived in New York, so I decided to major in Business. And I worked hard to save up my money, because I wanted to get out of debt and get some safety net. I counted up my monthly expenses, and then I decided that I wanted to have enough savings to be able to live for 6 months without a job, in case I lost my job. Once I got those savings together, I felt a little more comfortable. As I advanced in my career, I increasingly wanted to focus on things that I love.

So put food on the table. Once you've got that, search for work you truly love.

Thank you for the advice, Jared Teal K.

Thank you for the helpful advice Maeve K.

Thank you for the input Jared. It is important to remain financially secure but also do something you're passionate about. Andrea H.

:) thank you Ram L.

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Steven’s Answer

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This is a great question! I think "doing what you love" is often interpreted as "try to make a career out of your favorite hobby or pastime." This doesn't always work out in the job market. What you can do, however, is reflect on your personal strengths and skills—especially those that relate to things you love—and see what types of careers those skills can apply to. For example, a person may love creative writing and want that to be their full-time job; however very few creative writers actually earn a living wage from writing novels, short stories or poetry. On a positive note, the skills required to be a strong creative writer apply nicely to careers in journalism, public relations, marketing and technical writing.

You can be passionate about a particular career path, and this is very important—but you still must possess the right qualifications to gain employment. It's really important to do a lot of research. Talk to people who have that career and find out what training or skills are required. See how you can gain related experience through internships, career programs, and coursework.

To get to the crux of your question, in most disciplines, you need to "pay your dues" and gain experience before moving into your dream position. This might mean taking on internships or apprenticeships where you're assisting people who have the type job you want. It might also mean working in an unrelated field just to pay the bills while you're completing a certificate or degree program to get the right training. As Jared mentioned above, having the means to support yourself financially should always drive your decision-making. It's always good to have career goals in mind—but the trick is creating a viable path to reach that goal. Hard work and dedication are always required!

Thank you for your input! And it's important to realize your strengths and see how that could possibly apply to other careers while still following your dreams and ambitions. Andrea H.

Thank you for the advice. Teal K.

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Sheila’s Answer

This is a great question. Trying to find a job that allows you to "do what you love" when you are starting out in your career may well land you without any job at all and/or dashed hopes. I have seen a lot of young people who fail at their jobs because they feel like they should be doing what they love, and when they don't love what they are doing, they quit or don't work hard at it. Remember, a job that you love all the time is very rare, even as you get further in your career. So, when starting out, instead of trying to find a job that allows you to "do what you love," I would recommend thinking about what skills you have and that you enjoy (or at least can tolerate) exercising and find a job that leverages those even if it is not what you would consider to be "doing what you love." If you enjoy writing, a job that allows you to write a lot (even if it is not about your favorite subject) will be a good option to start out. If you love to paint, probably going to be hard to find a job that pays the bills that allows you to exercise that hobby. But, you might look for a job that allows you to exercise your creative side. Also, remember that most entry-level jobs involve a level of tedium. Don't be discouraged by this. Keep working at it, do a good job, have a great attitude, and you'll get your shot at the more interesting stuff.

Finally, you may be surprised by what you end up loving. I didn't start out thinking I wanted to be a lawyer. I went down one career path that I thought I'd love, and it didn't turn out that way. I switched into law without a lot of expectations and have enjoyed it. Don't get me wrong, I don't love every minute of it and there are good days and bad. But, overall, I'm happy with my career choice, even if it took a few hops around to find my way.

Thank you for the alternative way of thinking about it and the info Teal K.

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Andy’s Answer

You've asked a great question. There are definitely some concessions that you'll need to make when pursuing your dream profession. Just try to make sure that the concessions lead you into your desired field. In Neil Gaiman's speech, "Make Good Art," he talks about trying to become a writer. Early on, you may need to take any writing job that you can find, but as you progress, you'll find that you can be more selective. I'm paraphrasing, you can find his entire speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plWexCID-kA

I would recommend listening to it. Obviously not everything will be relevant to you, but he gives a lot of good advice.

Thank you for the advice. I feel very unsure about my future, so this is very helpful Teal K.

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Harold’s Answer

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There are several considerations, of course, with any career decision. Everyone ultimately walks their own path, but I can give you some insights from my personal experience.

The most intelligent question I have heard with regard to "how you spend your life" is: "If money was no object, what would you do all day?" When I was asked this question in 1997, I snarkily replied to my wife: "I'd play video games all day." Instead of taking the bait and arguing, she just said we should keep an open mind for opportunities.

And nothing vaguely resembling my "answer" presented itself for over 2 years.

Along the way, I learned IT skills and got certified... because I had bills to pay and a family to support. Video games still occupied my nights, but I spent my days being the best IT person I could be. In 1999, I found a classified listing for "Network LAN Technician for local Video company." I had the cold sweats because I could suddenly see a road into video games! I would work my butt off, prove my worth, somehow get transferred into Design, ride off into the sunset making games and living the dream!

I got the job, because I prepared all week leading up to the interview and knew everything I could about the company. There is no magic involved in getting a job: preparation leads to opportunity.

For years I worked very hard. In 2002, the company initiated an open challenge to all employees to write 1-page designs, with the nest idea being selected for our next project. I wrote 3. Out of 100 submissions, 2 of mine made it into the top 10 and I was asked to work with artists and engineers to formulate a complete design. I took a week of vacation, wrote the designs, collaborated with the other pod members, and submitted the final plans.

My plan was not selected, but my effort and ideas won me a job offer as a Designer anyway!

Five and a half years after my wife asked the question, I was finally being paid to make games... And there was no magic in that, either. I had a desire, but I had real-world needs, too. I fulfilled the requirements of supporting my family, but had open eyes for opportunities and body-tackled them when they came by.

Making games is neither as glamorous, nor as easy as I thought, but I do literally play video games all day (some days).

So, my advice to you is to ask yourself that question and accept the honest answer, even if it seems absurd. Then be an adult. Do your job (whatever it is) as well as you can. Seek training and ways to improve all the time. All the while, keep looking in the shadows for those moments of opportunity. Having proven your worth as a worker in any field, you will have the confidence and references to get the job that eventually reveals itself.

I wish you the very best of luck.

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Lisa’s Answer

Hi Teal!

I think it is unrealistic to love EVERY aspect of your job. That being said, when someone tells you that you need to do what you love to me it means that you feel passionately about what you do every day. This may be 1 or 2 things or everything that you do at work. It took me a long time to switch from jobs that were only a paycheck to a job that I get paid to do and love at the same time, but I can tell you I learned valuable things from every single one of those "paycheck" jobs!

Don't get discouraged if you don't love everything you do every day at first. It takes time, a love of learning and an open mind to eventually get to that place. You never know what opportunities may come about!

Best of luck!

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Kelsey’s Answer

Teal, you make a really great point!

"Doing what you love" may sound pretty cliche when you are just jumping out into the workforce. The first priority for most of us is bills, savings, and taking care of our families. Learning from experience, you will never know what is out there until you try it. For example, I am a huge people person, I love interacting with others- it energizes me and it is a huge motivator for me... so naturally I thought, go into Sales, that's where the money is at. After two direct sales roles, I figured out that what I really loved was finding an answer for others and being a resource, so I leaned toward a support role. Is that the thing that "everyone is talking about" or the career "that makes the big bucks", probably not... but I no longer have the Monday night blues and I absolutely LOVE my job.

Do what YOU are good at, find out what YOU are truly interested in and jump in to in wholeheartedly. Trust your gut and do not be afraid to fail, that's how you learn and grow... because you can't possibly fail until you try it and chances are very good that you will succeed! Best of luck!

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Brianne’s Answer

Doing what you love is sometimes hard to even just figure out. I agree that making sure you have income is important but sometimes it can be more of a journey of figuring out what you don't want to do to get to doing what you love. We've all worked bad jobs or things that we weren't the most passionate about but in the process of doing that it can open up a whole new door for you to find your place in the professional world. If you don't know what it is you want to do then try something of interest and see what it can lead you to. Sometimes the job you do just make ends meet can introduce you to the profession or person that will lead you to your passion and the job you love.

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Neil’s Answer

Teal, I'd say that it is hugely important to do something you get a kick out of - whatever you spend your time working consumes a huge part of your life, your time, energy, emotion and has a huge bearing on your family and friends too.
I think the trick is balance - at least in your early career: I mean that you do need to cover the basic needs in your life first - money, food, free time, etc but don't do something that you have no interest in or makes you miserable. Once you have your basic needs covered (however you define them) then I'd say take the risk on doing what you love.
The sweet-spot is being able to make a good living for you and your family, with a good lifestyle in an industry/organisation that fits with your personal principles. Then you will be happy as you work - just like the seven dwarfs!

Thank you for the advice, Neil. Teal K.

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Chris’s Answer

Hi Teal,

Keep in mind that what you love can change. Example, when I was younger and in high school I couldn't cook and despised it. When I got to college I had friends that cooked a lot and started getting interested. Now it's something that I love and plan to look for a position at some point in my life (no formal experience, home cook).

I share that because it's important to be open to new challenges. Even if you don't get the job you love, you're going to meet new people that have had other jobs. They'll tell you what they liked and didn't like, and you'll immediately agree or disagree with their assessment. In this way you're "borrowing" their experience to understand a world you're not familiar with that you may than be interested in.

That being said don't worry about getting your dream job right off the bat. You certainly want to go after something that interests you, but don't feel frustrated if it's not perfect. Many times what you thought would be great on the surface turns into something you don't love once you do it on a daily basis.

Best advice I can give is be open to new opportunities and go against your comfort zone. You'll be surprised at how you'll develop yourself.


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Jamie’s Answer

While we would always want to work at the job we truly love doing, this often times is not the case, especially when you are first starting off. Look at your career as a marathon, and not a sprint. By that I mean you have a long way to go until you reach the finish, and while your first few jobs may not be exactly what you want to do with your life, they can provide you with the skills and experience that you need to one day land your dream job.

When it comes down to it, if you can live semi-comfortably and can find some enjoyment in your job, then you are already ahead of a lot of the game. Often times you need to sit back and take stock in what you have, rather than focusing on that which you don't have.

I hope this helps.

Feel free to write back.