Do What You Love, Because You Don’t Have A Choice

[This article is mainly aimed at 20 somethings, but people at all stages of their career are highly likely to face the same challenges in the future, if they haven’t already.]

If you are in your 20s, your resume probably doesn’t work.  If you graduated from a four-year university, you probably had trouble finding work in your field (if you have any clue what field you want to be in) and have resorted to taking a job at the local shopping center when you didn’t get called back after filling out dozens or hundreds of time-consuming form-applications.  You are probably reading this from your parents’ basement.

I watched a TEDx talk by Charlie Hoehn tonight that’s relatively dated (posted to Youtube in May of 2011), fairly radical, but has pretty sound advice for youngsters in today’s marketplace.  In a nutshell, he explained the quarter-life predicament: good grades + extracurricular activities + college degree + no experience = frustration looking for jobs.

The solution?  Do work you love for free.  Reasoning: barriers to connecting with more successful businesspeople will be low, and as you do quality work for them, you will prove your worth in a way that enables them to benefit with no risk and no cost.  At the very least, you will get experience doing something you like while benefiting from getting more connected.  Doors will open for you one way or the other.

You have to do what you love.  Here are three reasons why:

  1. Competition is fierce.  In a tough economy, you are now expected to compete for low-paying jobs against people with more experience, people who are more connected, and extremely cheap, outsourced work.
  2. Passion and authenticity are more valuable today than a perfect resume.  It is no longer enough to be highly educated and to appear well-accomplished on paper.  In today’s world, you need an authentic personal brand, strong communication skills, and demonstrated initiative in your field.  I don’t know about you, but going the extra mile for something I don’t actually like very much makes me want to kill myself over any period of time. 
  3. Even if you are competent and/or fortunate enough to come out ahead in the traditional apply-interview-work-9-5 format, you are probably wasting your time.  Your new job is probably not secure, you are probably underpaid, you probably hate what you are doing, and you will probably not gain new transferable skills.  Worst of all, when it’s time to transition to a new job or a new career, you will find that you are older and less marketable than you were when you were a bright-eyed new graduate with optimism and ambition.

As far as how to gain skills you don’t yet have, one great book I recommend is The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg.  You can get a sneak peak of the concept from Tim Ferriss’s blog.

You will probably be shocked at how much you need to grow to stay competitive in today’s world, but by doing what you love, you will significantly increase your chances of succeeding, while exponentially improving your quality of life.

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