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Why “Follow Your Gut And Work For What You Love” Is Terrible Career Advice

Why “Follow Your Gut And Work For What You Love” Is Terrible Career Advice

Follow you passion and everything will fall in place!

You’ve heard this kind of career advice many times now –  follow your passion, follow your dream, follow your gut, follow your purpose. They are all variations of the same idea. Thousands of people have followed this advice and have been burnt in the process. However, there are thousands others who have done it and have been successful as well!

What is the right thing to do? Should one quit their current boring job to follow their passion instead? Or not? After all if actors, world famous artists, Olympic athletes, and others have been successful in following their passion, why can’t you and me do the same?

Passion in this context is a word that is used loosely to represent interests, likes, talents, dreams, hobbies, and sometimes even strengths. The end idea is if you are doing work that you love and are passionate about, it is the perceived ultimate career bliss! You will be fulfilled, satisfied, and happy. What else could one ask for? That said, passion is truly an emotional state. Wikipedia defines it as “an intense emotion” or “desire for something.” Is this deep emotional state sufficient to keep you fulfilled and happy especially in your career?

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I hate to burst the fantasy bubble, but passion alone is NOT sufficient to attain that state of Zen in your career.

Your passions change over time

Yes, they do! What you are passionate about today, could lose your interest a few years from now. When I was in my early twenties, I had never cooked a day in my life and couldn’t care less about cooking (eating was a different story of course!). However, over the past few years, I have become deeply interested in cooking. I spend a lot of time cooking for my family. Now I love to cook, but things could change. I have picked up so many new interests over the years, but also lost interest in many other subjects too. I couldn’t drop it all and try to create a career each time I picked a new interest! I have spent time to explore those interests and seen which have persisted over time. Very few of these interests can be referred to as my passions.

Your passion doesn’t have to be the one thing that you do all day

Although I am passionate about cooking, pursuing a career in cooking is not for me! I use cooking as an outlet. It is a way to calm myself and to recenter myself by doing something that I enjoy. Your interest in music or sports doesn’t have to translate to having a career in music or sports. Indulge in that activity a few times a day or week as a way to reenergize yourself. You could volunteer as a sports coach, be a music teacher on the side, or sing at events once in a while. There are tons of ways to indulge in that passion. Learn what about that impassioned activity draws you to it. Is it what it does for you? Or is it what it can do for others?

Your passion could be competitive

If your passion is to win the next season of American Idol, it goes without saying that it will be competitive. Or if you want to be a Hollywood star, realize that it is a tough ambition to fulfill. The top spots are few. This warrants an important question: are you passionate about the act of singing, acting, or are you passionate about the movie industry? If you are passionate about the act of singing or dancing or acting; for example, there are different venues to pursue this passion. If you are passionate about the industry or a particular show, there are other ways to be involved in that industry itself. The possibilities are endless. This leads us to the next thought.

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Your passion is possibly a verb

If you dig deep, with “Why” questions, you will arrive at what aspect of the passion draws someone. To help others, to lead, to make a difference, to take care, to give someone joy, to solve problems – these may be the true aspects of your passion that motivate you. When you look at your passion from the point of view of these verbs, it could open up other possibilities. If my true passion is to solve problems, I could do that in numerous ways, and in numerous settings. I could it achieve this at my current occupation with the skill set I already have honed. If my true passion is to help others, I could do it in a myriad ways: at my workplace, outside my workplace, in numerous settings, with numerous vehicles. Sometimes we get attached to the vehicle itself and call that our passion. Passion can be any permutation of these 3 elements:

To _________ (fill in the verb that drives you – teach, solve, lead etc)

in/to ____________ ( where and who do u want to impact – workplace, volunteer organization, specific industry….etc)

with _________________ (your vehicle – singing, cooking, acting, problem solving etc)

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Examples:

To lead with my public speaking abilities in a youth organization

To bring joy with my singing abilities to senior citizens

You could be living your passion with just a few tweaks

Job dissatisfaction has many factors attributed to it. For example, in my previous job, I loved my workplace and the work I did, but I did not enjoy the 1.5 commute each way! If that factor was removed, I could possibly have been living my passion. I love to plan, organize, and manage tasks. I also love all things people development related, and love to get things done. I had it all in my previous role and I was good at it. However, the commute was the killer. If I could have telecommuted, I could have been living my passion! Identify the aspects of your job situation that irk you. Identify the aspects of your job situation that you love. See if there are ways you can eliminate the aspects on your irk list to spend more time doing things you love. Research has proven that when you love what you are doing, the impact on success is significantly higher.

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Your passion could be staring you in the face at your current work

The reality of our jobs today is that we graduate from college and take the job that we get. Some of us are lucky to have experienced some aspect of our future job through internships, co-ops, volunteering, or simply asking people questions. We may have an idea of what the job may entail. Others land a job that they may have not studied for or dreamed of, but over time they hone their skills and grow in their careers. These jobs could then turn into their passion. You don’t necessarily have to go look for your passion. Your current work could be your passion!

Conclusion

Passion alone is not the key to finding and staying at a job, or for finding that state of career bliss. Our passions change over time and so do our career trajectories. A combination of skills, interests/passions, commitment, hard work, social needs, and impact, govern our career bliss by combining all together!

That’s the end goal, right?

Featured photo credit: Ryan McGuire via magdeleine.co

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of leadership and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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