I recently read a blog post by the CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner. In the blog post Jeff talks about three pieces of career advice that changed the course of his life. He was working at Yahoo at the time and the new COO was trying to recruit him to join his team. Jeff kept politely refusing for over a year until one day the COO stopped him in the hall and said this:
“Jeff, you’ve always told me that your lifelong ambition is ultimately to reform the education system in the U.S. Let me ask you something: Do you think you are going to be better prepared to make that a reality by pushing paper around, working on strategy, and doing deals; or by moving in to operations and building teams, inspiring people, and developing great products that change people’s lives?”
Jeff accepted the new position on the spot and went on to create LinkedIn.
Should You Follow Your Passions?
For many years I have heard people say that you should follow your passions in your career, and success will surely follow you. Even early into my career, I stopped believing this myth.I have found that many people chase their “passions” through their career or startup businesses only to find out that the intersection of business and passions is messy, or that their passions suddenly became a nuisance when transitioned into a money making operation.
For example, if you are passionate about playing soccer, and you can’t quite cut it in the MLS, then you may think that you should pursue a career as a soccer coach. This would sound like conventional wisdom, but will it really work? Will you make a good soccer coach because you love playing soccer? To be blunt, I doubt it. Coaching has a completely different set of skills than simply playing the sport, and the majority of people would fail at this job.
Base Your Career on Skills and Passion Will Follow
Like Jeff Weiner, a good career is based on rock solid skills. If you have been blessed with one particular area of expertise then you should follow that career path. The trick to happiness in this career path is to find the intersection of your skills and success in a career and the things you are passionate about.
So, rather than becoming a financial advisor if you are passionate and skilled in personal finance, you can be an accountant or a college financial aid officer, and get to teach your clients about how to handle their finances. This allows you to use both your skills and interject these skills with the things you are passionate about.
This also ensures that your passion stays separate from your career, and you can continue to pursue your passion outside of work.