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Warmest regards: Have you found your passion?

Published June 29. 2019 06:17AM

By Pattie Mihalik

On the last leg of my flight home from vacation, I got stuck in a dreaded middle seat.

But what I thought would be a difficult trip turned into a fun time with stimulating conversation. When the two people on either side of me said they were returning from overseas business trips, I said they were lucky. I always envied anyone who could travel the world as part of their job.

The woman who worked for an international health agency agreed. She said she purposely picked a career that offers a lucrative salary and the opportunity to see the world on the company’s dime.

The young civil engineer disagreed, saying his international travel is just something to endure.

Then he admitted he didn’t like much about being a civil engineer. “It pays well,” he said, “but it’s boring. I should have picked a different kind of engineering.”

That led to our spirited conversation about picking a career.

The question we debated was this: Should one pick a career based on the economic advantages it offered? Or, should someone follow his or her passions, regardless of how much or how little it paid?

The savvy health agency nurse said this question is a contentious issue between her and her college-bound son.

“His passion is art and he wants to major in it in college. I told him there are enough starving artists in the world. He needs to pick a field of study that will lead to a good job,” she said.

Studies reveal past generations looked for financial security. According to the study, today’s kids want to follow their passions. They look for college courses that interest them, not necessarily those that will lead to career opportunities.

That might be one reason why so many college graduates can’t find jobs in their chosen field.

Interestingly, this is a topic now being debated by my own grandchildren.

My bright grandson, Cameron, is now a senior in college. He has no idea what he wants to do after graduation.

When I worry that his liberal arts education won’t lead to a lucrative job, his mother said it’s not a concern for her.

“I just want him to do whatever makes him happy,” my daughter said. “Eventually he’ll find his passion, and that will make him happy.”

Right now his passion is being a camp counselor. He loves spending time in nature as well as working with kids.

I have no idea how he’ll translate that summer position into a full-time job. But I do know he’ll follow his passion.

“Follow your passion and success will follow,” is a prevalent school of thought.

Career coaches say they work on the simple principle of guiding people to listen to the true calling of their heart.

They claim too many workers are dissatisfied and unhappy at work because they find no personal satisfaction in what they do on the job.

Psychologists tell us job dissatisfaction and burnout are the result of clinging to a job only for a paycheck instead of following your passion.

On the other hand, Forbes magazine recently ran an article titled, “Why follow your passion is bad career advice.”

A comprehensive new study from psychologists at Stanford, Yale and the National University of Singapore concludes that telling someone to find their passion may not be the best advice.

It concludes: “We shouldn’t discourage people from pursuing things they are passionate about, but we should view the idea of passion more broadly. Primarily, one’s interests can evolve.”

I guess that’s why so many college students keep switching majors. Their interests evolve.

So, is it good career advice to tell college-bound kids to follow their passion?

Each of us will answer that question differently.

Personally, I never had a difficult time following my passion. From the time I was in fourth grade, I was passionate about writing.

While I was still in high school, I was working for our hometown newspaper. I’m sure it was my enthusiasm and passion for working on a newspaper that convinced the editors to give me a chance at that early age.

I always said the smell of printer’s ink was my favorite perfume and the sound of the press was my favorite lullaby.

Through five decades of newspaper work, my passion for journalism never wavered.

On two different occasions I did leave newspaper work for jobs in related fields.

When the owner of a cable television company offered to double my salary if I came to work for him, he also said he would create a satellite office in my home. With the extra time that would give me with my two daughters, it was too tempting an offer to turn down.

Yet, less than a year later I went back to writing for a newspaper.

Years later I left journalism again to teach school because I love working with kids. Yes, I was passionate about that job, too, but in the long run I realized my heart would always be in writing rather than in teaching kids to write.

How blessed I was in later years when I could continue to write as well as coaching other writers. Working at the Times News was 30 years of bliss.

So, yes, following my passion was the right choice for me. For others, it might be the wrong path.

Which would you pick?

Contact Pattie Mihalik at

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