Follow Your Passion

A book called Now, Discover Your Strengths came out about a decade ago. The book’s gist was that some of us are working in areas where we are weak and should shift our work focus into areas where our skills and talents are stronger.

This makes sense on a football team and in some organizations, but in many situations is bad guidance. (Full disclosure: I was given a copy of this book by a former manager. That manager was devious. That may contribute to my feeling that the book’s message is wrongheaded.)

The problem is this: your strengths may not be your passions. You may have an aptitude for math and good organization skills, but no desire to work as a CPA. You might presently be successful in a job you dislike. You may be happier in a position where you are less talented. This does not mean that a 330-pound offensive lineman can become a wide receiver. There are limits.

Weaknesses can be addressed. Skills can be learned. Talents can be discovered and honed. You want to be a web designer, but you currently are a copywriter? Don’t give up your day job, as they say, but study design and web technology on the side. Seek training—classes are available at community colleges. Ask web designers for coaching and career advice.

You may also have to convince a manager or two of your passion. Managers are often quick to pigeonhole a worker. “Your talents are in media relations—why would we assign you to direct our social media?” If you are particularly proficient in a given area, a manager may fear the challenge of having to secure an adequate replacement for you.

Improving your areas of weakness, instead of building on established abilities in your areas of strength, may be a better long-term strategy. As business practices and technology evolve over the next decade, demand (and compensation) for certain specialized work may diminish. Having the flexibility to move a bit sideways in your chosen field might make you more valuable to an employer in the near future.

Meanwhile, working at a job you enjoy is likely to be more personally fulfilling than one you dislike—no matter what the pay level. If your passion is sincere and your work ethic is strong, success should follow.

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