Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Well, you will have to work, but according to new research, following your passion gives you a much better chance of landing a highly satisfying job – one that pays what you need, offers great working conditions, and provides emotional and psychological satisfaction.
In today’s workplace, the top performers in every field are capturing more and more of the available payroll, leaving less money for co-workers who are average at their jobs, according to economist Robert H. Frank, writing The New York Times. This is true in all fields from CEOs to coders, graphic artists, welders and salespeople.
So, to maximize your chance of landing a job that is both financially and emotionally rewarding, you need to become a top-tier practitioner of something employers value. Establishing such mastery requires time and hard work – thousands of hours of practice and experience, in most cases. You are unlikely to devote such time and effort to any pursuit that doesn’t truly and completely interest you.
When students seek career advice from Frank he asks if they have ever been so completely absorbed by a task that they lost track of time. If they have experienced such a state of “flow” he urges the student to pursue a career involving that all-consuming task, even if it doesn’t initially pay a lot of money. Doing such work will be psychologically rewarded from Day One. And, over time, you will probably develop a level of expertise that might command more lucrative compensation.
Frank also cautions job seekers to think carefully about the “mission” of perspective employers, which is a huge factor in job satisfaction. You will likely feel better about yourself and your job if you believe in your employer’s goals. For example, would you rather write advertising copy for a tobacco company or the American Cancer Society?
Almost 90% of Cornell University students who were asked that question chose the American Cancer Society job, saying they would have to be offered nearly double the ACS salary by the tobacco company to even consider that job.
Of course, Frank warns, there is no guarantee that you will become the best at what you do. Nor is there any guarantee that your skill set – no matter how polished – will be in high demand. To pick an obvious example, being the world’s leading expert on Medieval Latvian literature probably offers limited financial upside and career mobility.
Still, he concludes, if you can make an acceptable living doing what you love, you are overall better off than if you take a “soul-crushing job” that pays more money.
I couldn’t agree more. Money is part of the happiness mix, but only to a point. Deriving a sense of satisfaction from your work and maintaining a good work-life balance are critical, too. Many of my financial planning clients are teachers approaching retirement. No, they never got rich; just made enough was enough to provide a good life for their families and save prudently for retirement. But if you really want to see their eyes light up, ask them how they feel about the hundreds or thousands of young minds they helped shape. They had a passion for teaching and that paid off handsomely in satisfaction and a solid living.
Yet another great lesson from one of greatest national resources, our teachers.