Which pieces of career advice have actually done more harm than good? How? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Here's a common piece of advice tends to be rather dangerous in my eyes, and in those of my parents and grandparents: "Follow your passion, and you'll never have to work a day in your life."
The danger isn't so much as the advice itself. The danger is in how the person takes it, and some can take it rather mechanistically.
This has resulted in lots of people flying off into fields that are fun to study, or activities that are fun to do, but have no real meaningful job opportunities. Then the person ends up kicking around dead ends for a few years before finding something mundane to settle down in.
For instance, I've had a great passion for archaeology since a very young age, yet I realized very early on that there's just no way in heaven or hell to work in that field. The openings are too few, even with advanced degrees. Besides, I've actually been on an archaeological dig once, and I got a sense of what's up with that field.
Then there's the matter of the opportunity costs (the "time is money" rule). Overall, it's better to study or do something with some realistic level of employment that you're still reasonably interested in, although you may not exactly be passionate about it.
One might be passionate about fine arts, which is fun both to study and to do, but work in commercial art (now rebranded as graphic arts) instead. If you can live with that, it's a great choice, because the employability is relatively high. If you're passionate about politics and government but still interested enough in law, do law instead, and so on. Of course, if you're passionate about law or medicine or engineering to begin with, then even better. But that's not the case for everyone.
Now, one could equally argue, "Isn't that compromising your own principles and conviction just for the sake of livelihood? If I don't stand for anything that's mine, isn't that falling for something that's someone else's?"
Well, if we put it that way, it's an unanswerable question. I don't care for that argument. Without a reasonable livelihood, we're not going to pursue our passions with any practical meaningfulness. If I don't have income coming in to buy the wretched watercolors, I don't think my passion is going to matter much, even to me.
Passion isn't something to follow; it's something to explore over time. In short, develop some filters in your head when it comes to passion. It's not always usable in real life.
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