“Do what you love, love what you do.”
It’s been a common phrase for a number of years now, first brought to public attention by Steve Jobs in his oft-quoted 2005 Stanford commencement address.
There has been a lot written about why you should do what you love; that if you identify and pursue your passions, success will follow. That if you align your interests, strengths, and desires you will unlock the door to a career path that ensures making a living never seems like work.
I think is this not only a grossly entitled concept, but that it’s dangerous–especially for students and recent graduates. 16.3% of 18-29 year olds are unemployed or have given up looking for work. That’s over 1.7 Million young adults.
Over a third of recent college graduates (36.7%) are working in jobs that don’t require a degree. That’s a pretty bleak reality check, especially when the cost of a 4 year degree is averaging $91,304 for an in-state public university and $179,000 for a private university. (That’s very near the national average transaction price for a condominium , by the way.)
So, burdened with debt and unable to find a position that values–or monetarily rewards–their degree, new grads are bombarded with this concept that they should pursue careers that only embody the thing they love. Is that realistic in our current economy?
It’s a privilege to have the education, finances, and familial/relational support where you have the freedom to pursue your passions.
Let’s look back at Steve Jobs. Jobs dropped out of a very expensive private liberal arts college and spent time bumming around Portland, OR, sleeping on the floors of friends’ dorm rooms, returning Coke bottles for pocket money, and taking a calligraphy course. After a brief stint at Atari, he went to India to study Eastern philosophy. If Jobs had continued on the ‘do what you love’ course, he would have probably ended up a Zen master.
Instead, his undeniable intelligence in product design and marketing led him back to technology and to be the product, design, and marketing leader that transformed personal technology as we know it (some would say three times: once with the Apple II, again with the Macintosh, and a third time with the iMac/iPod/iPhone/iPad).
It’s important to understand your strengths (what are you best at?), your technical skills (what have you studied?), your values (what is the code you live by? what do you want to do for others?), and what you want to learn/continue learning. Once you understand that fully, you can pursue work that will hopefully engage and fulfill you. But focusing only on that which you love–but which may not be a viable career path–can be disastrous.