If you want to find a job you’ll love, you probably think you have to start with things you love. But you don’t need to find your passion in order to love your work.

You’re most familiar with passion-based careers. These sprout from the “follow your bliss” and “do what you love” schools of thought. While I cheerfully endorse any path to a meaningful career, the passion route doesn’t pan out for many people, and then they hang their heads and go do something “practical,” which is code for killing me softly + a steady paycheck.

A common passion-based mantra is that “If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” This is simply not true; no matter what your career is, there will be days you don’t wanna do it, or have tasks you don’t enjoy but simply must get done. I find this particular phrase harmful, because it leads you to believe that if you ever feel like you’re working, you’ve missed out on your passion. And that if you’re not making your passion your career, you’re doing it wrong.

If the internet had a roof, I would climb to the top and say,


Oh, what what? You don’t have to find your passion to do meaningful work? NOPE. YOU DON’T.

*climbs down from rooftop*

If you know I don’t think you have a Purpose, you better believe I don’t think you have a Passion. You can have many passions and care deeply about a lot of things, but I don’t think you are limited to working around one capital P, star-crossed Passion. So you don’t need to find this mythical creature in order to do work that moves you. Capital P Passion is another notion that I find downright harmful, because it’s tantamount to believing that you have to find an honest-to-gard UNICORN before you can get going on a career that you love. More nope.

You can be passionate about a purpose-driven career. You can feel purposeful about a passion-driven career. So what the heck is the difference?


What Passion-Driven Careers Look Like

Passion-driven careers are about the relationship to self.

They tend to put your own enjoyment first. This is not a value judgement; again, there’s nothing wrong with the passion-driven career that works for you. Unfortunately, this is where the starving artists hang out. Love of an art, craft, or subject comes first, and swept off your feet, you try to find a way to make money from it. “If I could just paint/write music/take photographs all day long…” is how is starts. I hear you. That sounds amazing. But as professional painters/song writers/photographers will tell you, the reality doesn’t look like your fantasy.

You envision days on end of reveling in your craft, feeling filled up by the act of creation. What your art does for other people is an afterthought, and maybe even an inconvenience because you have to figure out how to get people to buy your stuff. Ugh! Unless you know the score going in, you probably go through a phase (maybe a loooong one) where you grunt about life being unfair and daydream of a world without money.

There are passion-driven people doing amazing work in the world. Some have even managed to make a good living at it. They have embraced commerce and price tags and have probably made incredible sacrifices. Hats off. They’ve done all this to support them getting to enjoy the thing they are passionate about. At the core, it’s really about them.

What Purpose-Driven Careers Look Like

Purpose-driven careers are about relationships with others.

You can still enjoy a purpose-driven career, but how you connect with and help others is what leads you to explore it. With purpose-driven careers, the thrill comes from making a difference for someone else. It’s about contribution, connection, and inciting change. It’s for the question askers who want to know, “Is this all there is?”

It’s probably not a love-at-first sight career like passion-driven ones are; a purpose-driven career may court you for a long time. They’re a little shy and can be hard to recognize. While the passion-driven are often plagued by the question “How can I make money at that?” the purpose-driven often wrestle with, “Is that even a real thing?” For example: “I’d really love to help [this kind of person] who wants to achieve/experience/do [this kind of thing]. Is that a real job?” (Answer: Probably!)

The big myth about purpose-driven work is that only certain kinds of work count. The truth is, purpose is a very personal thing, and any career, as long as it’s congruent with your personal sense of purpose, can be purpose-driven. What makes it grounded in purpose is not the subject matter, but the connection to others and motivation for doing the work.

Let’s Conclude with a Short Quiz

T/F: All artists are passion-driven.

FALSE: Passion-driven is not about the subject matter, i.e. art, fast cars, swimming; it’s about the relationships. Any career can be purpose-driven or passion-driven; it depends on the person.

T/F: Purpose-driven careers are better then passion-driven careers.

FALSE: The career that is meaningful and provides for you (in every sense) is the superior one. How you get there is not important.

T/F: If I do what I love, I’ll never feel like I’m working.

FALSE: Did you read any of this?

T/F: If following my passions has been a dead end, I should take a look at a purpose-driven career.

TRUE: Starting with purpose can lead to options you never would have thought of, and you’ll still be plenty passionate about what you do.

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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