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Ah, the great struggle of choosing your career when you’re torn between settling for a conventional, stable career path and a creative, personally fulfilling one.
And it’s a tough call to choose between pursuing your passion, all risks involved, or to opt for a not-so-exciting job that comes with a stable salary, benefits, and “security” (though, in today’s climate, can we call anything secure?).
That’s not to say those two paths aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s just that taking the more unconventional route typically takes longer to yield the income and stability that a typical 9-5 can.
But with that said, here’s why you don’t want to settle when choosing your career!
This post is all about choosing your career.
You spend 40+ hours of your week working. Do you want to spend that much of your life doing something you dislike?
This is a really important question to ask yourself.
It’s going to be really hard to cope with doing something you dislike for the majority of your day, every day.
Because work can feel like it consumes most of our lives, it’s going to impact you very negatively if you fill that time with something unpleasant. It can become a fast track to depression real quick.
On one hand, you may hear that turning your passion into work can make that passion lose its spark. But if your goal is to live a satisfying, fulfilling life, I’d argue otherwise.
Getting to spend 40+ hours on your passion is going to bring you more satisfaction and fulfillment than only getting to spend a couple hours a week on it. This is because you have a greater chance at being enthusiastic about what you do for a living.
If you’re going to spend so much time on something for 50+ years of your life, wouldn’t it be best if that something aligns with your purpose?
You reduce burnout
If you truly enjoy what you do, the hard parts of your career will feel a lot less miserable.
It’s a lot easier to have a healthy approach to the bad days if your mindset is in the right place. So if you’re happy with your career, you’re a lot more likely to say “ah, that’s just part of the job!” when something unpleasant comes up.
Meanwhile, if you’re in a career you hate, any minor inconvenience will really bother you and can amplify a negative experience.
Just imagine how much easier it is to reach the point of burnout when you feel apathetic and unenthused about your job in the first place!
So by instead choosing your career wisely and following your dreams, you’ll have a much higher tolerance of the bad days and reduce your chances of burnout.
Your happiness is more important than societal judgment
If you’re apprehensive about choosing your career in fear that your parents, friends, or society as a whole will judge you for choosing the unconventional route, don’t be.
You have to prioritize your happiness first and foremost.
Those people aren’t the ones that will be working that job day in and day out. You are.
Not to mention the resentment it will cause between you and them if you do what they want you to do and end up hating every second of it.
So you have to do what’s best for you. If the people closest to you don’t support you, that’s a real shame. But even less important is if society supports you. Society isn’t the one paying your bills! (At least…not directly.)
You’ll always wonder “what could have been”
Now, this goes both ways whether you take the conventional career or the unconventional one.
But I promise that when you look back at the things that matter (personal fulfillment, happiness, purpose…all these common themes we’re talking about), you’re more apt to feel regret if you didn’t give pursuing your dreams a try.
On the flip side, this “what could have been” concern isn’t as likely to come up if you’re following a path that leads to what you really want out of life.
Perhaps it’s possible to miss out on a higher paycheck than you may have had in a conventional career. But even that is not always the case. There are plenty of high-earners in all types of career paths!
Besides, “making a lot of money” isn’t always a necessary goal.
No career is truly stable
Especially not now. We’ve seen what the pandemic has done to jobs and the economy firsthand.
Even with the pandemic aside, companies go under. Pay cuts are made. Employees get laid off. People have to go back to minimum wage jobs on the side just to make ends meet.
And not even advanced degrees are a golden ticket to job security anymore!
I have long-considered getting my PhD and have since second-guessed this prospect after learning that starting salaries in my field are as low as $40,000 and that you can be stuck at that salary for quite some time.
And that’s just salary. What’s more is that there is actually an abundance of PhD holders and a shortage of jobs for them. A professor once told me, “the only way one of you can get a tenured position [as a research professor] is if I retire.”
So…so much for that commonly misconceived “guarantee” of securing a high-paying job even after having the most respected title on your resume.
No amount of money can fix dissatisfaction
This is so overlooked when choosing a career. I understand the temptation to chase promises of high salaries, but at what cost?
At the end of the day, is any amount of money worth it when you’re stuck feeling dissatisfied?
Once again, remember that you will spend a good majority of your days working. If the majority of your time is spent feeling dissatisfied, that is genuinely no way to live. You do not want work to be a dreadful thing.
Try your passion while you can. If it fails, you can go back to a traditional job.
This is something a lot of people forget: nothing has to be set in stone!
What you choose now does not have to be something you’re locked into for the rest of your life. So if it fails, it’s not like your life will be over! I emphasize this in my article No, Your College Major Doesn’t Lock You Into One Career Path.
So just go for it. Go after your passion. Assess the risk and do your research, by all means. You don’t want to end up in a spot where you’re struggling financially (at least not long-term). But also, don’t be so afraid to take the risk if you know it might reap amazing rewards.
Honestly, trying and failing will still feel better than not trying at all. And just imagine if chasing after your dream career is a major success! This possibility is not one to gloss over.
I highly recommend sitting down and planning out your professional goals. Give this one a lot of thought.
And if you still feel stuck, you’ve got to give What Color is Your Parachute? a read. This book will give you a lot of clarity in choosing your career and going after the best possible fit for you.
Did this give you some insight on why it’s important not to settle when choosing your career?
And especially if you’re young and not yet established in life, there is no better time to experiment and go for what you’re truly passionate about! Whether it be writing, the arts, teaching, or a start-up business, I say go for it.
Don’t let fear of failure stop you from pursuing a truly fulfilling career.
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