How many times have you been told to "follow your passion" when you're embarking on your professional life?
A lot of 20-somethings I cross paths with find themselves more paralyzed than anything else when they're told to "follow their passion." They're getting out of college, the job market is tough, more often than not they don't even know what their passions ARE yet. Some people don't find them until middle age! They hear things like that famous Steve Jobs graduation speech and are wondering, "How do I find THAT?" (And his passion in college was calligraphy!)
I ran this conundrum by my pal and superstar designer Jake Barton. Talk about following your passion! And making a living doing it! He just won a big design award by the Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, and you can learn more about his fabulous career here.
Given his huge success doing what he loves, you'd think he must have put his head down and focused single-mindedly on this one professional track for years and years, but his story is more interesting than that. He was generous enough to share these words of wisdom for 20-somethings feeling adrift about their professional passions:
"I had very conflicted experiences about my passion in my 20s, so I can really relate.
I did theater early, worked on Broadway as an assistant set designer, quit that to be a doctor, started post-bac classes for that, and got a job designing exhibits as a day job.
My main advice to every young person is the same that was given to me, and that's to try and experience whatever is of interest. Don't talk about it, or dream, just try it. Find a how-to video and make it. Find the company and intern there. Find the startup and tweet helpful things at it. Research the writer and beg for an interview with them for a review of your work. Teach a skillshare class to see if you like education. Sell a product to test a startup. Try whatever it is that you're interested in.
There has never been a better time for access to whoever or whatever will turn you on, whether it's a CEO or an artist or a technique. So many things are factored into a passion or a career: money, skill, work/life balance, travel, ethics, values, etc. Just see what it's like.
So take heart. You don't have to have it all figured out yet in your 20s."
More on this subject:
- Economist Tyler Cowan's advice to a young graduate on NPR: "I Know I'm Supposed to Follow My Passion. But What If I Don't Have a Passion?"
- Cal Newport's excellent book So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
- A little thought experiment on my Facebook page (feel free to comment!)
What do YOU think?