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Why ‘Do What You Love’ Is Bad Advice

With just about every presidential candidate's campaign in full swing, one group we keep hearing about (and will continue to) is all of the ordinary, everyday Americans: The ones who are taking the brunt of the economic downturn, the ones who need someone to stand up for them, and the ones who need decent paying jobs to provide for their Norman Rockwell, picture-perfect American families. So what's the most popular suggestion for what these everyday Americans should do for work? DWYL – "do what you love."

With just about every presidential candidate’s campaign in full swing, one group we keep hearing about (and will continue to) is all of the ordinary, everyday Americans: The ones who are taking the brunt of the economic downturn, the ones who need someone to stand up for them, and the ones who need decent paying jobs to provide for their Norman Rockwell, picture-perfect American families. So what’s the most popular suggestion for what these everyday Americans should do for work? DWYL – “do what you love.”

heart in hands 

(Photo Credit: Sean McGrath/Flickr)

Let’s start with millennials. Fresh out of college with six-figure debts and five-figure salaries, we’re being told to “do what we love” and “follow our hearts” into our careers. But if I’m going to “keep it 100,” as many of my fellow millennials might say, I think that’s horrible advice.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

In fact, no matter what age group you’re in, or education level you’ve attained, I think it’s incredibly dangerous to wander down the path of “doing what you love.”

The simple truth is that that often won’t put bread on the table – and for most of us ordinary Americans, that’s just not an option. It’s unhealthy rhetoric that only widens the gap between the working class and the wealthiest in this country.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

When we’re told to do what we love, we immediately narrow our vision of what a career can be – and therefore, limit our ability to be satisfied by our careers.

We get the idea that unless we’re doing the job that we “love,” we’re not doing a good job, or the right job, or the best job when in reality there are plenty of amazing careers to be had in fields we’re probably not all too aware of. Here are 15 that don’t even require a four-year degree.

The problem for all of us here in the middle class is that the middle class is, well, shrinking. The economic landscape is rapidly changing, and what we may have dreamed of doing as kids may not be the smartest paths for us to pursue today.

What’s more, we might be wasting our time chasing after bachelor’s degree only to take a job where our degree’s all but obsolete.

But If You Try Sometimes…

If you look at job trends over the last 100 years, blue-collar and farming jobs are disappearing, but service industry and white-collar jobs are on a steady and welcome rise. New fields are emerging in the tech world every day. While we need good workers in the service industry, web developers and data scientists are in sharp demand as well.

When your most prominent career advice is “do what you love,” there’s a big chance you’re missing out on some of the wisest potential career decisions available to you. Whether it’s finding a field you haven’t yet discovered, or learning the value of job that can simply pay your bills – don’t put so much pressure on yourself to find that “perfect job.”

Start with focusing on what skills you have, what you can learn, and how that can translate into a sustainable job with upward mobility. The reality is: we need bus drivers, we need cooks, and we need doormen just like we need developers, bankers, and engineers. While machines may be taking some jobs away, there are myriad jobs that aren’t going anywhere – and we depend on them in the big picture of our world’s day-to-day.

Stop focusing on loving what you do, and start focusing on finding a job that fills a tangible need. Your love for what you do will come with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think that “do what you love” is bad advice? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Peter Swanson
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