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Why “Follow Your Passion” Isn’t Always The Best Career Advice

I’ve always thought that “follow your passion” is horrible career advice. It gives the impression that there is only one thing you are meant to do, and if you don’t know what that is, you might never make it big. It also creates this false notion that dream jobs don’t come with stress, obstacles, and sleepless nights.

The problem is that the “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” advice is repeated again and again on podcasts and in motivational books and articles. If you are someone who is unhappy at their job, it can make switching careers feel even more daunting when itshouldfeel the opposite.

At a time when technology is shrinking and expanding different career paths, we are in the age of the pivot. Technology is making it possible for you to launch a company from your living room, connect with your next boss, apply for a job across the globe, develop the next best-selling app, become famous, or make your hobby a lucrative career. Leaping into a new career has never been easier.

“Don’t follow your passion.”

So where do you start? How do you figure out what the right next move is? In my new book Take the Leap: Change Your Career, Change Your Life, I interviewed Barbara Corcoran, who had (count them) 23 jobs before famously turning a $1000 investment into a billion-dollar real estate business.

She’s gone on to be an author, entrepreneur, and one of the sharks on TV’sShark Tankso she knows all about successfully switching gears. She’s a big believer innotfollowing your passion but going with your strengths.

Here, Corcoran shares nine pieces of candid, clever, and actionable advice on how to find the right career for you.

Try a lot of different jobs

You will discover who you are, which of your personality traits are assets and what gets in your way. I had over twenty jobs before I was 23, and what I quickly found out was the more I could talk with people and be on my feet, the better I was. The less I had to do with writing or reading, the happier I was. Those are great things to learn about yourself, and I wouldn’t have discovered them if I’d stayed in only one job.

Working just from your heart doesn’t always work

You don’t know what your passion is until you walk into it, and that’s the truth. People think they have to decide early and they have to get committed to a path. I think that’s the worst advice for a young person. In college, I delivered a bouquet of flowers to the same customers every week. That was my passion—I adored flowers.

It turned out to be a terrible business for me. I was alone all day going to the flower district, I was alone in the basement packaging up the flowers, and I was alone delivering the flowers to empty doors. The problem was that my great skill is getting along with people. I was so terribly lonely all day long, and I couldn’t collaborate with anyone. So it wasn’t a good fit.

Go with your strengths

Make a list of every job you ever had, even if it was babysitting at age 11. Anything you ever did, paid and unpaid. Write what you liked best and least about each one. You’ll see what traits appear and reappear. It is very telling and helpful in terms of what direction you should take.

Don’t be “above” anything

My son is 24, and recently his best friend got fired from a job. Very capable kid, just not the right fit. The first thing my son told him was, “Get a job doing anything.” He was right; I second that. You’re more hirable when you are working, and your head is in a better place. I landed this kid three restaurant jobs so that he could interview during the day and wait tables at night. He didn’t even go for the interviews.

I couldn’t believe it! If he’s a great waiter, he could meet his next employer and go into a career he didn’t even know he was going to be good at. I learned more from waitressing than any other job in the world. My career was built on sales, of course, and waitressing done right is a sales/service position.

Learn to work with difficult bosses

I never really liked any boss I worked for. But, of course, I had to learn how to get along with all of them. I think what bugged me was a lot of them didn’t deserve my respect by the way they ran their operation or treated their employees, but I had to pretend I respected them anyway.

Having the wrong boss for a long time can be very damaging to your ego, and it can make you feel less important and less respectful of yourself. So it’s important to seek out a situation where you respect yourself for the effort you’re making, and chalk up to experience that you’ve learned to be tolerant.

Cultivate risk

I’ve worked with kids who are super bright, and went to the best schools, and know business. They always have ideas for businesses, but they take consulting jobs instead of makingtheirideas a reality. They are afraid of the risk. That’s what gets in the way, over and over again. I think that being comfortable with risk is essential for anybody starting a business.

Surround yourself with the right people

That means wildly enthusiastic people who have talent and room to grow. Avoid the clunkers who suck you down—the negative people, the low-energy people, the people who see something wrong with everything, the people who don’t aspire. No matter how strong you are, you catch what is near you. I make sure I always have the right atmosphere around me. I learned that years ago.

Partner with someone with the opposite strengths

The most profitable business that I’ve invested in onShark Tankis Grace & Lace, which is a fashion brand. Why? The same reason all of my good companies are successful: the two entrepreneurs who run it are phenomenal at what they do. One is a designer, one is a business manager: a husband-and-wife team. They have opposite skill sets. It’s hard to be good at everything.

Don’t take “no” for an answer

I signed a contract to doShark Tank, and the producer came back and said they’d changed their mind. So I wrote them an email about why they should hire me. Why did I do that? I’m really good at coming back swinging. Also, I had visualized myself onShark Tank, just like I visualized myself succeeding in New York real estate.

Once I’ve imagined something and work toward that image, it’s always come true. If you can’t visualize it, you can’t get there. For me, that picture is a map of how to get there. It didn’t compute for me that it wasn’t going to come true. I already had my outfits picked out, I had a pen to sign autographs. I had to come back and fight for it. All it took was a well-written, poignant email.

Excerpted fromTake the Leap:  Change Your Career, Change Your Life by Sara Bliss. Excerpt reprinted with permission from Simon & Schuster.


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