Chances are your ideas about how you should choose a career are being shaped by outdated career change advice.

There are two main culprits when it come to career change advice you should stop listening to; see if these sound familiar.

Outdated Career Change Advice #1:
Just Be Practical

When they say “just be practical”, what they really mean is:

  • Just be predictable. Just be prestigious. And sometimes: Just be rich.
  • Do what you’ve always done. Go where the money is. Don’t get any wild ideas that you can make money AND be happy.
  • Keep things linear. If you have done the math, keep mathing. If you’ve been a teacher, keep teaching. You choose your lane, so stay in it.

That’s a really common mindset and set of values. I hear this a lot from clients who have immigrant parents or Baby Boomer parents. There was a time when there weren’t a lot of options to build a secure foundation, but thankfully things have changed. Me, my sister, many of my friends, and clients – we do things that didn’t exist when our parents entered the workforce. So if all you know is this narrow menu of options, I can see why people would lean towards just being practical.

But things have changed, and if you use this outdated advice, will you get a degree and job that make your parents feel safe and proud instead of exploring what you’d like to do. You’ll be Googling “top paying careers” instead of developing an understanding of your personal criteria for what will be meaningful for you.

When you cram yourself into careers that are stable on paper but you can’t stomach being there and are in a pattern of bouncing from job to job…I wouldn’t call that a practical solution.

The people I know who are most satisfied in their careers, who have really fulfilling lives outside of work, have taken a non-linear path and have made MANY choices that most of the world would rubber stamp as “not practical!”

Outdated Career Change Advice #2:
Follow Your Passion

I call this the “Bliss Backlash” against Just Be Practical.

The idea is that if you do what you love, the money will follow. Or even if it doesn’t, you’ll be so blissed out that you won’t mind that much.

Only, you do mind when the financial stress starts to hit.

You do mind when the things you love start to become a chore and you fall out of love with it.

You do mind when you have to go take a “just be practical” job and then you’re so exhausted that you can’t do your creative work anymore.

Following your passion is a beautiful idea, but for most people, it is not the solution to choosing a meaningful, sustainable career.

Maybe, like me, you were taught a combination of BOTH! I’m the child of a lawyer and an artist. There were definitely mixed messages at the dinner table about what I should choose and how to think about choosing it.

Did this happen to you? Were you taught to just be practical? Were you taught to follow your passion? Or this confounding mix of both?

Good news: there is a way to get out of the tug-of-war between being practical and following your passion. You do that by starting from a place of purpose.

When you start with purpose, it will be practical because you’re taking a service-minded approach to choosing your career. Where you can serve, you can earn.

There will also be passion, joy, and love for your work. But starting from purpose is very different than monetizing one of your passions.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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