Almost every career-oriented and lifestyle blog tells you to “Follow your passion”.
Do what you love and be happy!”
But is it really that simple?
Should you pursue your passion or be practical? You can actually have the best of both worlds, but you may not be able to do both at the same time. Several factors may contribute to your decision such as passion profitability in addition to your long-term life and career goals.
Every so often, I receive an email from an aspiring teacher who’s doubting her decision to enter the classroom.
From close observation of these communications, I see a pattern.
Each person is so happy to be following in the footsteps of a parent or excited about the great responsibility of leading children.
All of them are really worried about their financial future.
That pension sounds great, but what if you don’t stay in the teaching profession for the long run?
Switching school districts or states also affects pension status in some cases.
What happens when you are about to turn 40 or 50 and realize your teacher salary isn’t growing as much as anticipated?
What if there’s no partner in the picture to help pitch in with the bills?
Kids, mortgage, vacations, charity giving, etc.
Is it really that practical from a financial standpoint to be a teacher anymore?
While I’m an advocate for individuals becoming school teachers, I’m also at a point in my life that I understand the power of money and how it affects every single aspect of your life.
So my advice comes from that standpoint.
This candid post is dedicated to all of those aspiring teachers who are on the fence.
It’s simply my two cents, so you can take it or leave it. 🙂
But here’s what I’m sharing as if I were my 21-year old self. 🥰
Money or Passion Career?
So, you want (well, really need) to make money in order to buy the things you need and want: a car, house, more education, quality food, vacations, clothes, etc.
Maybe you don’t need much to live off of, but you do want to be comfortable and also be able to save for retirement and other life goals.
A “good” job will get you here.
And we know what those “good” jobs are, right?
High-paying positions like engineers, medical doctors, architects, CEOS… you get the point.
But there’s one not-so-small problem.
You don’t have a “passion” for any of those high-paying fields.
You desire to be an artist, a teacher, or some other field that is relatively low-paying.
Maybe you even have a degree in your passion area and are looking forward to putting it to good use doing what you love.
But, uh-oh! Big problem.
No one’s really paying folks in your passion career field what they’re really worth.
The societal value is there but not the economic value.
Unfortunately, salaries aren’t always based on societal value.
Teachers are valuable, social workers are valuable, custodians are valuable, nuns are valuable.
I don’t think anyone would argue with that.
All of these roles are worthy and very-much needed in our world.
But overall, their earnings potential isn’t very high.
So what’s a gal or guy to do who has a passion for something in a non-lucrative field?
Keep reading to uncover my pros and cons for following and not following your passion.
Reasons Why You Should Follow Your Passion
Here’s why you should follow your passion…
1. An unspeakable pleasure is received from doing your passion, and you can’t imagine doing anything else. You eat, breath, and drink whatever that thing is. It’s a “calling”, and you’d probably feel as though you lost part of your identify or soul if you couldn’t do it.
2. The passion that you want as a career has decent income potential to keep you content. If it’s a lucrative passion, even better. Your basic necessities will be covered, and you won’t have to worry about feeling financially strained.
3. Someone’s funding and supporting your passion. Kudos to you if that is the case. Maybe it’s a parent, spouse, partner, etc. If someone is taking care of your living needs, you trust him/her, and you have no worries about that situation, then that’s a bright green light to follow your passion.
4. It’s the only thing that truly makes you happy! Maybe you’ve worked a job you hate, made lots of money, and are now in a position to do what your heart has been urging all along. If the circumstances are in your favor, go for it!
When Following Your Passion Is Bad Advice
Sometimes it’s best to be practical before pursuing your passion.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never follow your passion, however.
It simply means that you may have to figure some important life matters out before doing so.
It’s bad advice to follow your passion if…
1. You’re really young and don’t know what to do with your life.
College students often fall into this trap. I hear the word “passion” come up a lot with liberal arts majors. They study their passion (or what they think is their passion), and once they graduate, they soon realize that there is little demand for what they’re offering. Then they’re stuck.
On the other hand, you have the math/science-focused majors (think engineers, pre-med, etc.), who may or may not have a passion for the subject matter, but nonetheless, they graduate and find a job (or maybe not in this economy, right?).
Let’s say both groups of students are unhappy and not really feeling the passion with what they are doing in their current lives.
Who do you think has the earning potential to easily pursue something else?
Yep. The engineer does.
Have you ever noticed that a lot of the early retirement blogs out there are from math/science-centered career folks?
They worked hard during their early years, retired relatively young, and are now pursuing their passion.
Their high earning potential was a significant factor in helping them do this.
That’s hard to do the other way around.
2. The passion path is non-lucrative.
Are you passionate about German history? Passionate about the history of Piaget or Marlow’s hierarchy theory?
That’s great, my friend.
But I don’t know how you’re going to make a living with those topics. Is it possible?
Sure it is, I just don’t know how.
My passion is Latin American Studies.
I really love it, and I mean LOVE it!
At one time I was going to go for my PhD in Latin American Studies.
But then reality set in.
What in the world was I going to do with that degree that I couldn’t do without it?
That passion degree, though it would have been fully funded, wasn’t worth the time and effort for me.
And I didn’t want to teach college, but…
You could be a college professor.
Is that what you really want to do though?
Is teaching adults at the university level a passion of yours?
And will your students be just as enthusiastic as you about these topics? (who knows).
It can be hard to find your tribe with topics like this, and they can be hard to monetize.
But prove me wrong! 🙂
As a side note, K-12 teachers can seek more lucrative pastures by becoming school administrators or curriculum specialists.
3. You don’t have a backup plan.
Great, you decide to explore your passion, even if it doesn’t have great income potential.
Just in case things don’t go as planned, though, do you have a Plan B?
I’ve heard many self-help and business “experts” say that having a Plan B means that you have already set yourself up to fail.
I respectfully disagree.
Having a Plan B means that life happens, and so you better be prepared.
Having a back-up plan doesn’t have to be complicated. A family member, such as a spouse with an income, is a good back-up plan.
Returning to your “regular” job to earn more money until you’d saved enough to keep pushing your passion is a great plan too!
4. You’re not a risk-taker.
Unless your passion is in a lucrative field, doing your passion and making a living can be a balancing act.
Are you mentally and emotionally ready for that roller coaster ride?
I taught elementary school for 15 years and loved it.
It was a passion career that I made a decent living from.
But then I decided to step away from it and develop another passion of mine: entrepreneurship.
And boy is it scary and unpredictable.
With teaching, my paycheck was predictable to a T.
I never had to worry about if I was going to get paid or not.
But in the business world, it’s a different ballgame.
But it’s worth the risk for me.
Are the financial risks in following your passion okay for you?
5. Others Depend on You Financially
If your passion pays well, this reason isn’t targeted to you.
But if your passion is less financially-rewarding, you’ve got to make some decisions if you’re expected to be the breadwinner and bring home the bacon.
Work your passion on the side until you’re making enough to support yourself and the others who depend on you financially.
What’s the Responsible Thing to Do?
When deciding whether to pursue your passion or be practical, it’s best to think through your unique situation carefully.
If you need to make a living now because you have a family or other obligations to take are of, do your passion as a side hustle until it’s bringing in enough revenue to sustain you.
Or work that non-passion job for some years, save a lot of coins, and then pursue your passion later in life (this is my favorite option).
You can have the best of both worlds, your passion and a decent-paying career! It’s not a matter of which one but more so a question of in which order and in what combination you should do each.
Should you pursue you passion or be practical?
Why not do both?
Today, make a plan with actionable steps to get yourself where you want to be.
You may have to work outside of your passion for a while to make ends meet, but in the end, you’ll be doing your passion and your back account will be sitting pretty, too.
What do you think? Money or passion career?
Talk to me.