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Finding Your Passion…or Not

A colleague posted the link to this article in the NY Times—about students following their passion—and I almost didn’t read it.  Some words associated with college admissions, and students in general, are overused. In my opinion, two of them are “passion” and “voice”. However, when I did click on the link and read the article, I was pleasantly surprised. This was not the usual article about “following one’s passion” but a realistic look at passion and what you choose to do for a living.

The author, admittedly, is a very unusual person in that he had his pick of three very impressive career choices in his senior year of college.

“I had a job offer from Microsoft and an acceptance letter from the computer science doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I had also just handed in the manuscript for my first nonfiction book, which opened the option of becoming a full-time writer. These are three strikingly different career paths, and I had to choose which one was right for me.”

As an Independent Educational Consultant who helps students through the college admissions process, I hear the “passion” talk more often than most. On one college consortia trip I was on about a year ago, I listened as a professor went on and on about a student’s need to find his passion. It struck me as too much. Too much pressure on high school students and even college freshman to know what their passion is. But more than that, it made me feel like it was too high an expectation—that everyone have a passion and that this passion needs to manifest itself as your career. Otherwise, as Mr. Newport describes the advice given, “we’ll end up bored and unfulfilled”. I remember coming home from that trip and having this discussion with my husband. “Sometimes”, I said, “you just have to have a good job. Then you can have the means to follow other passions in your free time.” If a student has a passion for something, that is wonderful. But not every person has a passion and not every passion can become a career.

After describing his early career experiences, not all of them positive, he says, “Today, I’m a computer science professor at Georgetown University, and I love my job. The most important lesson I can draw from my experience is that this love has nothing to do with figuring out at an early age that I was meant to be a professor. There’s nothing special about my choosing this particular path. What mattered is what I did once I made my choice.

Excellent and refreshing advice.

Janet Rosier

6 Responses

  1. Janet Rosier says:

    I love it, Liz! Thanks for sharing.
    Janet Rosier

  2. LIz Lightfoot says:

    It took me until I was 40 to find my passion! I come from a family of very late bloomer.
    Take care,

  3. Janet Rosier says:

    I agree with you 100%! If someone has a passion and can make it work as a career, that is just great. For students, the pressure to choose is huge. One student I worked with had the passion for her major but when she visited colleges, she never got that “I LOVE this campus” feeling. She was worried about this and confided in me. I told her she was just fine–she had several colleges on her list where she would be happy and she should not feel pressured to fall in love at that moment. And, she did eventually fall in love, but it took time.

  4. Bruce says:

    thanks for sharing. I know am Anesthesiologist who followed that career path because of her father. She finished a residency and a fellowship then gave it all up to teach the violin. She couldn’t be happier! Sometimes one has to follow his/her passion- if they have one!! They are the lucky ones. For that reason I believe everyone should “explore”.

  5. Janet Rosier says:

    Thank you, Ruthie. Not everyone has a “passion” and many of our passions have nothing to do with how we make a living–some people are terrific musicians but still hang on to their day job. And, working for a solid company with great benefits, like AT&T, is a very smart decision.

  6. ruthie says:

    What a wonderful blog!! I have been feeling this way all my life. My career at AT&T was never my “passion” or “calling” as some refer to it. I used to wonder if the fraud principle would surface in my case and I would be “found out”. I felt free to open myself up to so many other opportunities. I just loved what you wrote