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Is it realistic to choose a career based on your passions?

I recently ran across an article by Katherine Kendi on “passion and job fit”, suggesting that it was not always possible to have both. After a chance encounter with a group of teens who all want to be video game designers, I see her point. Just as for my generation, we could not all play baseball for the Red Sox, this generation can't all design the next blockbuster video game. However, if we can break down opportunities into core activities, there may be a way for people to do what they love in careers they may have never considered or even heard of. Maybe following our passion is more about doing what we love to do and less about job titles.

I realize that for those of you in my generation (or the baby boomer generation), the idea of following your passions through your job may be a relatively foreign idea. My co-founder, Dr. Popple, did a career survey with retirees to investigate how they chose their career. He included his mother in the survey who said "I thought my only options were teaching or nursing... and I faint at the sight of blood so I became a teacher". Dave’s mom, and most people over forty, were funneled into jobs based on what was needed, what their family did, what would earn them enough money to live on, and what they could afford to train in. If they liked their job – all the better! But if not, the job still had to be done. When Dave’s mom passed, he found a couple of manuscripts for children’s books that were never published. Its sad that a woman whose true passion and skill was writing for kids did not discover the opportunity until she was well into her fifties.

I wonder if the wanna‐be video game designers and Dave’s mom have the same core problem: failing to follow their passion because they do not know all of their options, and the options they do know of are unappealing. In the 1950s when Dave’s mom chose her career path, she thought she had 2 options; when, in reality, there may have been 50. Today, most students can identify 30‐40 options, yet there are over 1100 different job types in the U.S. alone. We know this because we programmed every job into our database and we add 5‐10 new ones every week.

Is it possible that the teens I mentioned earlier all want to be video game designers because it is all they know? If they knew they could solve crimes by studying bugs (Forensic Entomologist) or design structures that are in or on the water (Marine Engineer), sitting in a cubical writing video game code may seem a little boring in comparison.

Katherine unwittingly made the case for an assessment that broadens and uncovers options when she wrote "The problem with [following your passion] though, is that passion doesn’t always translate to the right career. I love screenwriting — but I hate the idea of hoofing around Los Angeles networking, never knowing when I’ll sell something." Katherine was in love with the "idea" of the job but not with the reality of the job. Our video game designers may be in love with the “idea” of design these games because it is the coolest thing they know, not because they want to write an elegant code.

Our Point: Never in history has there been such a variety of ways to follow your passion, why not start the journey of uncovering these options before it is too late.


Author: Danny Gonzalez, co-founder of Facticiti.com , an online assessment that identifies your interests and then matches them to a database of 1100 jobs and growing.