When he was charting his career course, it’s unlikely that Mike Rowe thought about collecting owl vomit, making charcoal or turning the bones of dead cattle into useful products.
Rowe probably didn’t envision himself developing a passion for the Dirty Jobs TV show that enjoyed a seven-year run on the Discovery Channel. Life can be funny that way. Doors open unexpectedly and you walk on through. Or maybe you’re among the fortunate ones in a profession you’ve dreamed of since childhood.
In his 2016 video talk, Don’t Follow Your Passion, Rowe warns against the dangers of pursuing unrealistic goals and ignoring the practical demands of life. Wishes and desires, he explains, often are not aligned with talents and capabilities.
“Just because you’re passionate at something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it,” Rowe says.
There’s a huge difference between a hobby and a job, Rowe points out. If you love painting or golf or antiques, then by all means indulge yourself. It’s great if you can summon the same enthusiasm for your job, but it’s not important. What is important in the business world is the ability to recognize opportunity. Rowe talks about a septic tank cleaner who saw potential and developed a passion on his way to earning millions.
In a 2015 commencement speech at Columbia University, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ben Horowitz said passion is overrated and selfish. “Find that thing you’re great at,” he told the graduates. “Put that into the world. Contribute to others. Help the world be better.”
The harsh reality is that a college degree these days does not guarantee a decent job – or even a job in your field. In fact, research suggests that workers must be flexible and open minded to meet future employment demands.
According to a 2016 World Economic Forum report based on a survey of 371 companies across a variety of industries, we’re headed for a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” that will result in the loss of 7.1 million jobs – mostly administrative and clerical – and the creation of 2.1 million new jobs by 2020. Interestingly, more than one-third of workers will need skills they don’t possess now.
How do you feel about being a data analyst or a specialized sales representative? Those appear to be promising positions moving forward. Don’t think you can generate much passion there?
Sorry, but someone’s got to do the dirty work.