In what seems like a “just for kicks” survey of its members, LinkedIn asked more than 8,000 professionals about their childhood dream jobs. Nearly one in three said they either currently have that job or work in a related career.
Blogging about the survey results, LinkedIn’s career expert Nicole Williams recalls a conversation she had with a client who had dreamed of becoming a pilot: “Being legally blind, he knew that flying a plane wasn’t in the cards for him, but after exploring what about being a pilot was so exciting and interesting to him, we were able to find other options that spoke to both his passions and talents.”
He ended up being a project manager in corporate America, which just goes to show how liberally a “related career” might be defined.
Still, the survey results suggest there’s a connection between childhood dreams and adulthood career paths, so if we’re stuck trying to figure out what to be when we “grow up,” our 6-year-old selves might have the answer.
“The dream jobs we aspire to as children are a window into our passions and talents,” Williams says. “Identifying and understanding those passions are key to improving our performance and enjoyment of the jobs we currently do,” no matter if we’re not living our childhood dream.
But not so fast – your 6-year-old self doesn’t know jack, says Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.” (Business Plus, 2012)
Inborn or preexisting passions are rare, he says, and have little to do with how most people end up loving their work. What we’re interested in at age six, or even now, is not necessarily an important factor in building a meaningful career. If it were, people would parlay their hobbies into successful careers all the time, but few do.
Newport’s book is based on the premise that “following your passion” is rotten advice. He sets out to disprove what he describes as “an immensely appealing piece of popular career advice,” the passion hypothesis. It goes like this: “The key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion.”
Treating career development like a matching game leads to constant disappointment and chronic job hopping, and distracts people from paying dues and building the skills they need to become valuable to employers. Newport calls this accrued value “career capital,” and it grants people access to better jobs and hard-earned rewards that actually bring career satisfaction, such as autonomy, mastery and making an impact.
The passion hypothesis also wrongly points to passion as the starting point for finding a job, but passion is actually “something you cultivate in the jobs available to you,” Newport says.
“The problem with modern career advice is that it talks about passion like it’s a concrete noun, like a bit of pirate’s treasure that can be found,” he explains. “But it’s more like an adverb. It’s the way you approach your career.”
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