Leave Passion Behind and Do What You’re Good At

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Do what you love. It’s the advice that career gurus dole out with aplomb these days, but it’s wrong. While it sounds ideal to follow your dreams and make money doing what you love, the reality is that what you’re good at should trump what you’re passionate about. Instead of asking yourself what you love to do, ask yourself what someone will be willing to hire you to do. In the real world, those two things are often very different.

Too many young people are unwittingly given bad advice by parents and teachers who naturally care about them and want them to be happy and fulfilled. But, for a variety of reasons, it’s best for job seekers to do plenty of research and ask themselves some hard questions: What are my talents and skills? What careers match up with them? In what fields might they be most in demand?

Sure, some people are lucky. Their passions align with what they’re good at and can still provide them with a living they can, well, live off of. But for many others, that won’t be the case. I recommend pursuing a career path that you’re reasonably sure will pay dividends, rather than placing a shaky bet on being able to beat the odds.

Here are five compelling reasons to focus, first and foremost, on using your skill set:

One: It’s easier to get a job.

It’s not exactly news that the current economy is as unforgiving as any in history. Still struggling to emerge from the long shadow of the Great Recession, today’s job market is incredibly tough and exhausting. In fact, around 40 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed. What that means, of course, is that most companies won’t be willing to go out on a limb for unproven job candidates.

Often young job seekers decide to pursue ‘glamorous’ jobs in fields like entertainment, TV broadcasting, high-level PR, and more. Sure, you might get a break, but the odds are most definitely against you. There’s usually a way to translate your skills into a more marketable career. As an example, if you’re persuasive and engaging, I’d advise you to put those skills to use in a career in sales, for instance, where it’s probably not as tough to get a job, rather than joining the ranks of struggling Broadway wannabes.

Two: It’s more fulfilling.

Yes, choosing a career you can do well, rather than one that seems fun and exciting, might sound unappealing. (Seriously, who believes that a job in sales is more fun than singing on a Broadway stage?) That’s why I challenge you to look at job-related concepts like “fulfilling” and “appealing” from a different angle.

In the long run, the satisfaction you get from doing your job well will far outweigh how entertaining it is. Even in the case of a field you truly love, a long string of disappointments and unmet goals will take a serious toll on your attitude, outlook, and even your fundamental well-being. On the flip side, though, years (and eventually decades) of success in a less-thrilling but steadier field will lead to many satisfying accomplishments and a legacy you’ll be proud of.

Three: It’s more lucrative.

Are you ready for some more tough love? Here goes: Odds are, you won’t be that one-in-a-million success story in the field you’re passionate about. You probably won’t get that cooking show you dreamed about. The book you wrote probably won’t become a runaway bestseller. What’s more, so-called “glamorous” jobs are notorious for being low-paying. You’ll end up working yourself to death and barely scraping by.

If you pursue your passion, you might—might!—be able to make a decent living doing it. But, if you pursue what you’re good at, you’ll have much better odds of making a living. That’s because you’ll have more opportunities, and they’ll come to you more easily. The skills you have will help you do a great job, which will get the attention of your higher-ups, and as a result, you will be more likely to advance in your field.

A bigger paycheck equals more freedom. When you choose to work at what you’re good at, you have more time to play when the work day is done—and more disposable income to finance that play.

Four: It protects your passion.

Let’s say that you love to play golf and are (presumably) a good player—not good enough to compete on the PGA Tour, but enough to land a job as a golf pro at a country club. At first, you’re over the moon because you’re getting paid to do a job that revolves around your favorite pastime. But soon, your enthusiasm fades. Turns out, you spend 80 percent of your time in the pro shop selling shirts. And your time on the range mostly involves trying—yet again—to teach Mrs. Jones how to get the ball in the air. Before long, you actively dread going to work.

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