My niece, Vivienne, wants to be a graphic designer. Specifically, she wants to work for herself and have her own firm. She even planned to pursue this dream right out of college, but—given the current economy—she had to put that dream on hold. Now she feels like she is stuck taking a job she doesn't love just to pay her bills.
We're so often told to "follow your passion," but what happens when that's not a possibility? Fortunately, passion isn't the only guiding factor that leads to acceptable job opportunities. In fact, when faced with accepting a job in another field versus a lengthy period of unemployment, it's always better to take the job. You don't want red flags popping up for future employers (or clients).
There are three main reasons for taking a job you aren't passionate about:
1. The Job Will Provide For You In Some Way
There is no shame in focusing on the benefits you will receive from a certain position. It's OK to take a safe job even if it isn't your dream job. If it can solve other big problems in your life, you should do what you need to in order to be comfortable.
Money isn't everything, but it can make a huge difference to your life. Financial well-being is a responsible choice to make. Health and other benefits are an equally important reason to accept a job. Sometimes a job can offer you some much-needed flexibility and independence.
Will this job give you more time to pursue your passions? That can be almost as fulfilling. You don’t need to just live to work—you can also work to live.
2. You Will Learn From the Job and Move On
The days of our grandparents working at the same company for 40 years and collecting a pension are over. Nowadays, it's often necessary to make a jump to a new company and a new position to achieve your goals. If each job is a level in a video game, you've got to mine the treasures of each level and then move up to the next.
Even if a job is not in the field in which you received your degree or other certifications, you'll still likely learn from it. Each job is a stepping stone to your dream job and can help you achieve big goals down the line. After you've bulked up your resume, you can start looking for more exciting jobs where you can use your new talents. Like Mike and Sulley in Monsters University, maybe you start in the mail room and end up a superstar. There's a lot to be said for hard work and patience. Just make sure that each job you take truly is a stepping stone toward something better.
Sometimes, a dream job is just that—a dream. Sometimes your passion just isn't lucrative. Sometimes, like in Vivienne's case, the timing isn't right. No matter what, you can always follow your dream outside your 9-5 job and have an amazing hobby that you pour your passion into.
How to Answer "Why Do You Want This Job?"
Just because you're not passionate doesn't mean you shouldn't try your best to get the job (and of course to do a good job once you get it!). When you get the inevitable "Why do you want this job?" question, there are three things to convey:
- Show how your skills match. The skills you've learned are not solely related to your degree. You've learned soft skills that can be applied to any position in any industry. Relate how these skills can help you perform day-to-day functions within the job description.
- Show enthusiasm for the job. Describe the above reasons when you answer. Convey your excitement to be independent, learn new skills, and/or find a company that offers growth opportunities.
- Show how you fit into the culture. Describe what kind of coworker you will be and show how your values are similar to the company's.
My advice to Vivienne? Take a job that allows you to be creative, no matter what that means. Creativity is something that all graphic designers need to prove, and honing those skills will benefit her business one day. In the meantime, she should continue taking jobs outside of her 9-5 job whenever possible to build up her portfolio. One day, when she is more financially stable and the economy is more conducive to new ventures, she can follow her passion full time.