Mike Rowe

Posted: July 5, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

The Internet is a wonderful tool for learning more about any topic. It’s also the greatest megaphone in history for repeating and magnifying bad ideas. One of these bad ideas in the field of career planning has been “follow your passion.” Don’t get me wrong, I want my clients to find work that is meaningful and makes them happy (and provides a good living). I don’t like the “passion” plan because it’s very hard to define and turn into a realistic job search strategy.

I’m not alone in this belief. Cal Newport takes the passion-driven career apart in a Huffington Post essay. Newport cites a TED talk by TV host Mike Rowe that looks at dirty jobs, hard work that still makes people happy. Few of the people Rowe profiles went into their jobs with a sense of passion. They do work others don’t want to do. Still they find a way to happy. Rather than look for passion, these people found value in their work through what Newport calls “competence, autonomy, and impact.” In other words, they feel they are doing work that has value in the world (impact), work they are good at (competence), and work that they can do their own way (autonomy).

When you have a minute, read Newport’s article and watch the video of Mike Rowe’s talk. Happiness at work is never found through an easy formula like “find your passion.” I tell my clients that you have to be doing the right thing at the right place with the right people. That’s a very tricky combination. You can find the right kind of work and may even be working at the right company, but if you are working for a bad boss or stuck with a group of the wrong kind of co-workers, your job will not be passion. It will be misery.

Find the job that is right for you. Start with what you like to do, the kinds of action and thinking you will perform on the job. Then it gets harder because you have to land a job at the right kind of company where you will work for the right kind of boss with co-workers that fit with you. It’s not easy. But, if you have the right goals in mind, you can find the kind of job – even a dirty job – that makes you happy.