We’ve all heard the tired advice to follow our passions in our careers. But if you’ve graduated college and don’t know what you want to do, chances are you haven’t bumped into something you’re passionate about that pays.
Maybe you love travel, your dog, or knitting (me!) and you don’t see a career in those things. Maybe you love something popular, and it may take years to break into that profession.
Maybe you’ve worked your way through college and you’ve seen enough of work to not be excited about it anymore.
I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book released last year, Big Magic. I like the way Gilbert describes her process for starting a novel. She follows her curiousity, and one thing leads to another. Apparently her novel The Signature of All Things grew out of a curiousity about gardening. That’s it. Not some passion.
She says that people who tell you to follow your passion when you’re lost in your career deserve a rude gesture or two. She writes: “That’s like somebody telling you that all you need in order to lose weight is to be thin… That doesn’t help!”
Sometimes curiousity can move us further in our careers. It motivates us to learn new things, and in the process you become passionate about something. Or not. But you don’t need passion to take action in your life. Maybe you’re a person who is passionate about being really good at something, but you’re too early in your career to be good. You don’t have the experience. That’s okay.
If passion is someone shouting in a field blooming with flowers, the sun shining down, then curiosity is a whisper in a public library. Psst. Hey, what about that story on page 3 in the style section about a brewery opening in Maryland?
When I chose my major in college, comparative religion, I didn’t think about marketability. I was just curious about the subject, and bored to tears by others. The more I studied, the more I loved the topic, but it grew organically. I didn’t love the subject before I took the class. And when you think about it, that doesn’t make sense. It’s like loving someone with whom you’ve never talked. It’s based on some image you have in your head of someone, not reality.
Choosing my major didn’t feel like a passion. It felt like a nagging itch I had to scratch. And when I was done, it turned out lots of other people in the world were curious about religion, too. And in every job I’ve had since, every single one, that major has been helpful. My first journalism job? They needed to revamp their religion page. My first career counseling job? Georgetown was a Jesuit institution.
Curiousity just works better sometimes. Here’s a good case for not having a passion: Most of today’s jobs with the biggest growth weren’t invented yet. Bet they’re filled with curious people.