A recent New York Times article by Cal Newport caught my eye. Entitled “Follow a Career Passion? Let it Follow You,” it hinted at an interesting take on career decisions.
Using his own personal example of facing three very different, but potentially equally promising career prospects, Newport outlines how he made his decision quickly and confidently.
Admittedly, facing the ‘problem’ of three solid career options may not seem likely in today’s economy. However, for college seniors, or anyone facing a career choice, it can be an anxiety-producing situation. As Newport points out, the advice often given is to ‘follow your passion.’ However, what if you don’t really have an obvious passion?
The author turned this idea on its head by admitting, “…I was confident that all three of my career options could be transformed into a source of passion, and this confidence freed me from worry about making a wrong choice.”
He instead focused on general traits he thought would make him happy. He writes, “The traits that lead people to love their work are general and have little to do with a job’s specifics. These traits include a sense of autonomy and the feeling that you’re good at what you do and are having an impact on the world. Decades of research on workplace motivation back this up.”
This idea might raise questions for people advising impressionable college students nervous about making the wrong career choice.
- Faculty members: How can a student’s interest in a subject be balanced with learning the realities of career options early on?
- Career services offices: How does this idea translate in the traditional career services office setting?
- Parents: How would this approach change, if at all, the advice you might offer to your children?
For students themselves, it might be comforting to hear yet another perspective that says a rewarding career can be achieved in a variety of ways.
Newport offers this closing advice, “Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.”
Did you adopt this approach in your own career? Do you think today’s college graduates do?