Executive Career Coaching - Job Search Debugged

Bad advice from well meaning mentors

By , April 8, 2012


Those young in their career or those seeking to change their career path are often given very bad advice.

Do what you love and the money will follow.

Follow your bliss.

Follow your passions when looking for a job.

If you do what you love it will never seem like work.

If you don’t love your work, find something else.



Photography and writing are my passions. If I dedicated mindshare and time to pursuing either, I am certain I could make some sort of progress and earn a few bucks. Instead, I take pride in my work as an Executive Coach. I have trained for and know how to do it, some say well. My work provides an income, loads of satisfaction and the wherewithal to write and photograph.

My photo buddy Ralph’s passion is traveling on his BMW bike with the wind in his nose and bugs in his teeth. He talks about it, thinks about it, shares his experiences and looks forward to the next outing.

His profession is that of senior executive who corals technologies and herds them into start-up businesses. He is good enough at what he does that he has done if for over two decades and is respected by the local business community as a shaker and mover. He takes pride in his accomplishments and often thinks about the difference he has made in other’s lives as he careens around corners on his BMW.

Craig is an accomplished classical musician. He works for a Fortune 500 company during the day and rehearses and performs at night and on week ends/holidays. If he pursued his music, exclusively, he could not, would not, enjoy the perks of the life he treasures. If he followed his passion, he’d be broke, unhappy and ill-prepared for sending kids to college or his own retirement. His solution encompasses a job he does very well which provides the income for the lifestyle he enjoys as well as an outlet for his passion; music.

And last, Hartley is a guitar-playing singer with a band, club dates and a new CD. He is also one of the top software development managers in Silicon Valley. He takes both seriously and gets recognition and accolades for both. He is a very happy man. He also knows he could never do either one, exclusively.


The facts are, few of us have the extreme talent or financial freedom to focus exclusively on our passions. I am reminded of Meyer who is passionate about his job and does it so well prospective employers beg him to work for them. Meyer is also passionate about photography which provides him the artistic satisfaction he requires in life, but little to no income. He is quite fine with that arrangement. He found his calling providing the best customer experience he can divine and is considered a thought leader in that niche.

Meyer and Craig’s first priority is a lifestyle that includes choices, financial stability and participation in the mainstream of life. Not all readers of this blog have either the talent or connections to follow their passion, live their bliss. But every one does have the capability to create a career that allows the freedom to enjoy their passions.

In my view it is far more important to find satisfaction with a job well done, a job that provides an income to support family, fun and passions, than to pursue the myth that money and pursuit of passion are linked. Do you believe for one moment that Jay Leno’s passion is performing comedy? No, his passion is vintage cars. But long ago he realized, one begets the other.

Or take the impressively sturdy Betty White. Is she enjoying the second wind in her career? Of course. She has done her job well and is garnering the fruits of those efforts. She is proud of the recognition and her life’s work, but her true passion is humane treatment of animals. A passion she has been able support for a lifetime because of her celebrity.

I think you get the picture. I do not ignore or denigrate those who have a bone fide calling and the talent to back it up. I refer only to those who believe the mythology offered by parachute designers and bliss road map generation. Their advice is popular because we all want to believe there is a way to make work, well, less like work.

My advice is to discover and hone what you do well that the employment world needs. Find the pain and cure it. One of my most successful clients builds collaborative relationships extremely well. People just like him. He has learned how to use that to solve overwhelming issues within and between companies. He is professionally and personally satisfied, has an income to support and nurture his young family and the freedom to mentor technology professionals on how to build successful entrepreneurial companies: His real passion.

And like so many others who are successful, he is clear on what is important to him. He would not choose to be a banker or a real estate tycoon. He knows technology is where his heart is. To that extent, he follows his bliss.

Awareness of the industry best-fit for you is important to find a job in which you will excel. Are you an REI sort of employee or does the world of aviation appeal? Do you want to support the medical world or is the travel industry more your cuppa? Take the 10,000’ view of what is of interest to you first.

Or, as some have chosen to do, select the role you want to play, a role that plays to your strengths. Meyer, for example, discovered his penchant for customer satisfaction while sitting a help desk. He built his career with progressively more responsible positions as he honed his craft. He didn’t just walk into the position as Director of Customer Satisfaction. Building a career takes time and planning.

The angst from those casting about to find their passion/bliss seems to over ride attention to what do I do well? What do I enjoy getting recognition for, sharing and growing? Certainly, an effort to combine the two is worth consideration. But to make it the focus of your life’s work may be misguided. Instead, hone your business and technology skills. Focus on building your professional network. Look to professional organizations, mentoring options and media contributions for your satisfaction.

I suspect if you interviewed those recognized as leaders in their profession, they would indeed say they love what they do. But they love what they do because of the satisfaction from a job well done. Not necessarily because it is a passion. Look for happiness and bliss in your personal life. You have more control over it and fewer variables to challenge it.

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