Earlier this week, I attended a career development seminar that talked about how to find a satisfying career. In general, this was a pretty low-level presentation, and it was largely based on a diagram similar to the following:
Breaking it down
Simply stated, we each have a unique set of passions/interests as well as a certain skill set. At the same time, life presents us with a more-or-less limited range of opportunities.
Resource: Top 5 Financial Moves to Make This Year
While our passions sometimes overlap with our skills, that’s not always the case. Likewise, we’re sometimes presented with an opportunity to work in a field that we’re passionate about, or for which our skill set is particularly well-suited, but…
It’s relatively uncommon for all three to overlap. When they do, the thinking goes: you’ve hit the jackpot. You’ve been presented with an opportunity to work in a field that you’re not only passionate about, but also particularly well-suited for when it comes to the necessary skills. How perfect!
That’s all well and good, but it leaves out a major variable: Compensation.
What about financial security?
One of the big problems with feel-good career advice such as this is that it often ignores financial realities. Sure, it would be wonderful if we could all work jobs that we love, and in which we excel, but the truth is that we also have to support ourselves financially.
Sometimes, the careers that pay the bills and buy the lifestyle we need/want aren’t the same ones that make us jump out of bed, ready to clock in for the day.
Numerous personal development gurus have argued that if you follow your passion, the money will follow. This sounds great in principle, but how true is it in practice?
I’d argue that this worldview is wildly overblown. There are tons of fulfilling jobs out there that won’t pay the bills, no matter how strong your passion may be.
Resource: 10 Steps on the Career Ladder
This isn’t to say that you should chase money over happiness, but you do need to make sure that you can make ends meet. In my opinion, blindly following a passion in hopes that things will magically work out is a recipe for disaster.
Questions to ask
Unless you’re one of those wildly blessed folks who manages to find the seven-figure job that they’re [perfectly suited for and love, you’ll need to find a balance. And balance almost always involves some sacrifice.
Figure out what is the most important to you, and make adjustments accordingly. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to support an expensive lifestyle, or retire early? Maybe you would rather be happy and have a fulfilling family life, even if it means that you don’t drive a brand new car.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself honestly, when trying to find your own perfect balance:
- What is the bare minimum you need to make in order to meet your true needs (not wants)?
- How much would you like to make, in order to support a wants-based lifestyle?
- Are you more concerned with building a family and your life outside of work, or building your career?
- What is the likelihood of turning your skills or passions into an actual career?
- If you can’t turn your passion(s) into a career, can you create a side hustle from them?
- How will your happiness be affected if your dream job doesn’t turn out to be your career?
- How would your happiness be affected if you made $X a year? More? Less?
Asking yourself these questions may help you determine where your own, unique level of happiness lies, especially as it relates to your career.
No, we won’t all be the lucky ones that turn a fun passion into our dream job and rake in six or seven figures in the process. However, that doesn’t mean that we are all forced to settle for miserable careers or even low-paying jobs.
Finding a balance of career satisfaction and financial security may be tricky. By asking yourself a few key questions, though — and doing a little soul-searching — you might just discover your own “dream job.”