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Why ‘Do What You Love’ Is Bad Advice

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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.

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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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Don
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Don

The advice “Do what you love” is somewhat naive,given the fact that most people would no doubt love to binge watch Netflix,eat frosted flakes and sleep in till noon everyday.

Kris
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Kris

The 7 points you discuss are valid and true – I have experienced most of the blowback you discuss directly. The way career choices can be made these days can seem flippant, where positive emotions sometimes are expected at the start of every work day. I would however suggest that “doing what you love” is actually doing what you like, in this context. We have many likes, but typically few loves. At least to me, where doing what I love is an option only after eating. Or to quote my favourite line about my love (art) this year; “Art harder,… Read more »

OOtB
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OOtB

Horrible advice. You should do what you love everyday, or at least every weekend, regardless of your profession. The key to professional satisfaction is to correctly train yourself in the direction of interest, be it college or similar, to be effective. Being effective at what you do is how you find satisfaction and success in a career. If you find yourself placed in a position you don’t like? Be dynamic, train yourself again, enable success. Make the worst part of your day a focal point, and try to make it an awesome part of your day. Laugh at it, create… Read more »

Ann
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Ann

If you don’t do what you love, the stress is too much. If you do what you love, and there is stress, the stress is worthwhile. So this is terrible advice. What the advice should say is to keep considering what else you might love to do. Broaden what you can do within the field or fields you are interested in.

Ray
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Ray

Learning to love what you do may be a bit more realistic rather than do what you love.. But Don’t do what you hate is probably the most realistic. While the adage “money isn’t everything” may be true, “Money isn’t nothing ” is equally true. I think the secret is to have open vision, positive, realistic expectations and learn to adapt to changing circumstances and opportunities.

RP
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RP

Why is there the implication that doing what one loves is always going to be a second rate job paying too little? Doesn’t anyone love doing well paying jobs?

Adam
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Adam

Do what you love with the right balance where it can fulfil your basic needs. Then only it is possible to go far and make it big, for you need to love what you do in order to go the distance….

Lucky
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Lucky

Follow your passion, that is a mantra i have always impressed on my daughter.

This year she has already graduated with a grand grade average having taken a double major. To boot the uni she studied at have now employed her as a research assistant. That’s fantastic. Shes doing what she loves and getting paid to do it. what more do u want in life.

Recognition from your peers?

Kim
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Kim

I would say… “don’t do what you love UNTIL you can pay the bills [with A job]… then do it on the side until it can be a full time thing financially sustaining you… THEN make the leap to ONLY doing what you love.”

Don’t just stay in one place because the world needs the cogs in the machine. I don’t agree with this article in that sense.

CV
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CV

This article places a value on money and careers that is just not accurate.

I understand that Payscale is an organization centered on money; but to tell people they will find the same satisfaction from a “job well-done” as they would in doing something they’re passionate about is poor advice.

What we should be doing is redefining what is truly a “need” financially. Preaching that more $, better careers and financial comfort is how to find happiness is what’s actually unhealthy and dangerous. Not following your passions.

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