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by Kaitlin Edleman | October 15, 2014


“Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Words of wisdom or annoyingly ubiquitous career advice that’s not actually accurate or helpful?

Career/workplace issues expert Mart Nemko suggests that rather than looking for a “dream career,” job hunters should focus on finding job satisfaction, even if that means working in a seemingly boring or ordinary position.

Chasing your passion may be terrible advice for many people. What if you don’t have any real “passions” or what if you passion is sitting around smoking weed all day?  For many people, one interest or ability may not stand out strongly enough to create a career around it or there may be too many careers or paths to choose from based on their diverse interests.

Another common problem that many students attempting to define their career paths encounter is that their interests and passions are shared by herds of other young degree holders. For example, many young people pursue their dream of becoming a lawyer, thinking it will be exciting (too many John Grisham novels and Suits episodes), prestigious, lucrative or stable. Unfortunately, due to an oversaturated legal job market, law school enrollment is still 20 to 25 percent higher than the projected market for J.D. required or J.D. preferred jobs. Even if law graduates find a job, the endless grind of billable hours and firm politics may eviscerate any happiness that comes from working as a lawyer.

Dreams shattered like the screen of so many work BlackBerries may be even more prevalent for those who entered law school with the hope of fighting for the environment or representing indigent foster-care children. Rather than saving the polar bears, these would-be public interest attorneys may find themselves abandoning their well-meaning legal crusades in exchange for a higher paycheck and the drudgery of unfulfilling legal work. Even those who do land their dream public interest law job may still not find happiness when faced with the pressure of paying student loans, a mortgage and other expenses on a public interest attorney salary.

Other apparently glamorous jobs such as journalists or art gallery professionals may experience a similar fate. With so many eager applicants, employers are able to pay low salaries and may not focus on quality of life. Why bother to pay well and create a welcoming office culture when there are endless candidates to take your spot if you quit?

Nemko suggests that those searching for a career identify their career non-negotiables which for many includes job security, a reasonable commute, reasonable pay and benefits, reasonable work hours, a positive work environment and work that feels worthy and ethical. Fulfilling non-negotiables may not lead to a “cool” job or a job with a lot of status, but it may provide job satisfaction and allow for all around contentment.

Think this is good advice or are you a hopeless career romantic? Let us know in the comments!

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Read More:

Finding Happiness and Practicing Law are Not Mutually Exclusive
Is Your Law School Ranked Highest for Soul Crushing Debt?
Does Decreased Law School Enrollment Signal a Change in Legal Education?
Why Following Your Passion Is the Worst Kind of Career Advice