Job, Career, Calling

August 12, 2013

Should You Look for a Job You’re Passionate about?

Probably not, says one business writer. But if you stay long enough, you should be able to love the job you have.

In an article for Inc.com, Jeff Haden maintains that too often we are told to “find work we are passionate about,” without stopping to consider if we have relevant passions. Haden–building on the insights of Cal Newport, Georgetown professor and author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Search for Work You Love–argues that most often our passions are better suited as hobbies, and hobbies aren’t generally the things will pay us to accomplish. So the typical advice “to follow your dreams” leads a lot of well-intentioned adventurers into one dead end after another.

Does this mean we are destined to muddle through life, hating what we do for a living? Not all. According to Haden and Newport, the best way to be passionate about what we do is to get really good at what we do.

Roughly speaking, work can be broken down into a job, a career, or a calling. A job pays the bills; a career is a path towards increasingly better work; a calling is work that is an important part of your life and a vital part of your identity. (Clearly most people want their work to be a calling.)

According to research, what is the strongest predictor of a person seeing her work as a calling?

The number of years spent on the job. The more experience you have the more likely you are to love your work.

Why? The more experience you have the better your skills and the greater your satisfaction in having those skills. The more experience you have the more you can see how your work has benefited others. And you’ve had more time to develop strong professional and even personal relationships with some of your employees, vendors, and customers.

Where business success is concerned, passion is almost always the result of time and effort. It’s not a prerequisite.

Obviously, some people are blessed to have a passion, get a job that fulfills that passion, and keep on enjoying that job for a long time (I count myself among those so blessed). But for most people, passion is something we grow into (and my passion for ministry has grown the longer I’ve been in it). Passion is, in large part, the product of positive feedback over time after longevity, hard work, and improvement. Which is why working right often trumps finding the right work.

Want to love what you do? Pick something interesting. Pick something financially viable–something people will pay you to do or provide.

Then work hard. Improve your skills, whether at managing, selling, creating, implementing–whatever skills your business requires. Use the satisfaction and fulfillment of small victories as motivation to keep working hard.

And as you build your company, stay focused on creating a business that will eventually provide you with a sense of respect, autonomy, and impact.

“Don’t focus on the value your work offers you,” Newport says. “That’s the passion mindset. Instead focus on the value you produce through your work: how your actions are important, how you’re good at what you do, and how you’re connected to other people.”

When you do, the passion will follow–and if you work hard enough, someday you’ll be so good they can’t ignore you.

Christians will want to round out this advice with biblical principles about working as unto the Lord and being God’s image bearers in the world. But as a general piece of sanctified common sense, the article is on to something. Try something, work hard, get better, make a contribution–you may just find that you’ve found your passion after all.

Thanks to Dan Lohrmann, Michigan’s Chief Security Officer and one of our elders, for passing along this article.

DeYoung

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