The Working-for-the-Weekend Career Strategy: Pick a Pay Scale, and Look for a Job in that Zone



I’ve become increasingly convinced that “find your passion” is an incredibly destructive piece of advice. It tends to create three outcomes:

  1. Folks who follow their passion and flourish in that field.

  2. Folks who follow their passion, discover that they are constitutionally ill-fit for that job, and either self-destruct or abandon ship, in either case feeling like a failure.

  3. Folks who have no idea what the Hell their “passion” is supposed to be, and thus spend their working life being, at best, deeply dissatisfied.
    1. Group #1 is vanishingly small, and possibly self-deluded. Bear in mind that, technically, that word–“passion”–denotes a level of excitement and arousal that is almost unbearable. It should be used to describe experiences that are fleeting and intense: orgasms are passionate, teaching English is a slog. If you tell me “teaching is your passion,” then I want to know what the word us you use for when your genitals are in contact with those of someone you love.
      Group #2 are the sad realists. I was actually in a job that was my “passion” for about 8 years. I was good at it, but totally psychological incapable of coping with the job’s stresses, and that almost ended up killing me (literally).
      Group #3 are robbed of one of the great satisfactions of human life: Being useful to other humans. No one is passionate about custodial work, or even “passionate” about it. But there are some really great custodians out there, who make lives better every day, and are proud of their work and the positive impact they have on their fellow humans. That is a noble and wonderful thing, and it’s embarrassingly easy to achieve: When you learn a trade and do it competently–not passionately, but well and responsibly–you can and will be useful to your fellow humans. I’d wager that *most* of the dissatisfied workers in Group #3 are perfectly competent at their jobs, and could be enjoying, on a daily basis, how useful they are to their friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family–but they aren’t, because they’re casting around for the career equivalent of True Love.
      So, here’s my suggestions: Forget about your “passion.” Instead, imagine the kind of life you want to live–Where do you want to live? With whom? How many if them are dependent children or pets? What hobbies and and trips and experiences do you want to have in your life?–Calculate out how much money you need on an annual basis to do that, and then look at this list and pick a job.
      This works for folks changing careers, too. Sick of being a teacher (which is, incidentally, the “passion” that almost killed me)? Well, heck, then consider being an embalmer or a glazier or hazmat worker or a radio/TV announcer or a solar-cell installer or a goddamn drywaller–all of which pay about the same as being a first-year teacher, and two of which I know for a fact you can learn in a week or two of on-the-job training. Lots of weird, unrelated jobs are adjacent to each other in pay. There are lots of different ways to work for the weekend.
      (source where I first saw this graphic)