Whether it's anthropology, aeronautics or astronomy, I've counseled young people to become experts in the area that most interests them, and then believe the salary and career path will follow suit.
Well, according to Cal Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, I'm wrong.
In a recent article in The New York Times that was excerpted from Newport's book, ‘So Good They Can't Ignore You; Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love', he says you can still be happy even if you hate your work! Say what?
Newport contends “…the notion we all have a pre-existing passion waiting to be discovered applies to only a small group of people and puts a lot of pressure on the rest of us.”
As a result, says Newport, when the going gets tough, the majority of people have “an existential moment in which they ask: is this really what I'm meant to be doing?”
The academic believes this doubt, in turn, generates anxiety and chronic job-hopping.
Newport may be right about other professions, but not public relations. I don't think many PR people hate their craft. They may hate their employer, but PR is an art, not a science. It's not like accounting, the law or Wall Street. I've always believed that one either loves or hates PR from the get-go. It either becomes part of your DNA and, yes, your passion, or it doesn't.
That's why when young people do leave Peppercomm after a year or so, most opt for an entirely different profession (teaching is far, and away, number one).
I still believe young people should pursue their passions in life. And, I disagree with Professor Newport that if one applies oneself to one's job and becomes more proficient, a sense of fulfillment will accrue over time. Lots of people make lots of money on Wall Street, but I've yet to meet one who says he's developed a greater sense of fulfillment over the years. Wall Streeters work on Wall Street for one reason: to make big bucks. And, most hate their jobs.
As far as I'm concerned, the decision is easy: follow your passion and hope you make decent bucks down the road or settle for a job you hate and learn to like it as you get better at it. Since we have only one life to lead, I couldn't imagine following Dr. Newport's advice or working at a job I hate.