This probably sounds like an unpopular opinion, but hear me out. From a very young age, society tells us that we should pursue a job that we're passionate about. This way of thinking is dangerous and unreasonable, and here are a few reasons why.
This whole idea that we should all have this one passion that gives us the will to live is false. Many, many things can pique our interest and get us excited, and we often create new passions by working hard and becoming good at something. People like Mark Cuban and Scott Galloway agree that the idea of "following your passion" is completely backward.
And then there's the problem that not every passion can be turned into a livable income — or if it can, it only happens for a lucky few. Society wouldn't function if we all decided to be professional songwriters or photographers. There are jobs that are very necessary, and pay well, but aren't exactly seen as passion-worthy. It feels as if society puts a judgment on people who are working in a job they don't absolutely love, when in reality, they're just trying to build a life for themselves, and they're contributing to society too.
As a sophomore, I realized the career path I was on wasn't the greatest return on investment, and I wanted to change majors while I still could. I went to my college's career services and talked to an advisor. She had me take a quick test and looked over the results. She concluded that a particular career (that I won't name here) was a "great fit" for me. She gave me a few resources to learn more about the major and sent me on my way. What she failed to discuss with me, however, is median salary, projected job demand, and level of education needed.
After looking it up myself, I found that the median salary is relatively low, especially considering that I'd need an expensive graduate degree to find a decent job in the field. Without knowing any of these things, I had supposedly found my perfect job with the help of a professional Career Advisor. This is why the system needs to change.
As someone who has seen firsthand how a lack of financial stability can bring drastic devastation, stress, and fear upon families, I strongly believe that we need to improve our message to young people about what a job really is.
We need to remind high schoolers that yes, it's important to study what you want to study in college, but you need to keep in mind that just any degree is not a magic guarantee of success. We need to talk about what it costs to live in the real world and how disproportional some careers pay over others, and the differences in job growth and demand. These things are brushed aside because we're told that the most important factor in choosing a career is passion.
Unfortunately, things aren't looking great financially for millennials. Home prices and tuition rates have skyrocketed since our parents were our age, and we're forced into a high cost of living — likely with roommates — while paying off enormous amounts of student debt for decades on end. All things considered, is it really that important to make sure we're following our passion at our jobs?
In my opinion, it's enough to like the people you work with and approve of your company's goals and values. It's enough to have a job that doesn't eat into your personal time, keep you up at night, or literally make you miserable. It's okay to have a job that's not super glamorous or Instagram-worthy.
At a time like this, millennials as a population can't afford to all be "starving artists' or whatever else we're told to pursue that won't make a sustainable living. Rather, what's important is that we make enough to be able to build a strong foundation for our adult lives. It's important to not live paycheck to paycheck. It's important to have the option to travel, get married, buy a house, start a family, and whatever else we want to do with our lives that costs money (i.e. everything). Having a secure, profitable job means potentially having these options and more.
Of course, it's important to be happy. Actually, in my opinion, it's the MOST important thing in life. But happiness comes from a lot of areas in our lives, not just from our job. And yet, financial stability can be a huge source of stress for many Americans. Not having enough money can affect our wellbeing in so many ways. Money problems can destroy friendships, relationships, and close family bonds. Money problems can leave us in dire straits after an emergency. Money problems can force us to make unnecessary sacrifices or make us do ugly things. So if following our passion means taking a low-wage job, is it worth it?
The more we acknowledge the truth, the easier it'll be for us young people to accept and adapt to our lives. Tell your friends: it's okay if you're not following your passion at work. Do your research before jumping into a career path, and prioritize your long-term security and wellbeing. And don't feel guilty about it.