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Should You Follow Your Heart or Fill Your Pocketbook?

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/15/2011

Ah...the age-old question of love or money? If you're like many, you are probably bombarded by people telling you to follow the pocketbook. After all, they argue, you need a practical major or job choice in order to obtain that great job and you're crazy to try to earn a living doing what you love.

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    Dreaming of Stacks of Money

    Often people pit loving what you do against being rich, but why can't you have the best of both worlds? If you dream about large stacks of money, aligned in something that looks like a scene from Scrooge McDuck's warehouses, I'm here to tell you that it'll never happen if you go chasing money. Sure, you might be able to have some short-term success, but more likely than not you will be limited and you will burn out.

    Chasing money in your career makes about as much sense (at least to me) as does chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Just when you think you're getting closer to your goal, that crazy leprechaun moves the pot again and you're back where you're started.

    No, I'm here to tell you that if you want long-term satisfaction, if you want to feel the real worth and power of money, and if you want wealth beyond your wildest dreams, you need to follow your heart. You need to do what you love. You may live in a cardboard box, but chances are you, you'll be more likely to live in a cardboard box if you do something you don't love and have a passion for.

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    Following Your Passion

    You hear this phrase all the time, but then when you take steps to follow the advice, people question you. Perhaps this is because they are too afraid themselves to follow their passion or what they are good at for fear of the unknown. Don't let this influence you. You hear stories all the time about people who followed their passion and struck it rich. How many times do you hear about the person who followed the rainbow and struck it rich?

    You've got to set fear aside. Sure, it's scary to get out there and do what you love to do. You might not make money at first. You might fail. No matter what happens, though, if you get out there and you try, you won't regret it. No one ever says they regretted trying to make a real go at it. They do sometimes however regret their unsatisfactory or unfulfilling jobs where they were at the office chasing the sparkly stuff.

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    But...There Are No Jobs!

    What I'm going to say here might seem radical to some, but I'm going to say it anyway. There are always jobs! There might not be jobs that you want, but there are always jobs. If you can't find the job of your dreams, get a random job, volunteer or intern in the industry you want to be in. Better yet, start your own business. Make your own job. Where there is a will, there is a way.

    Recently, the American Bar Association was quoted as advising young prospective law students not to go to law school. As an undergraduate, visiting professors would often tell me not to go to graduate school. Their story was the same then, when people considered the economy to be booming: "There are no jobs."

    The thing is, when you go to college, graduate school, or professional school, you shouldn't be doing it because there's this elusive holy grail called a job at the end of the tunnel. Sure, I focused on my career, on life-goals I had that I was working toward accomplishing; but mostly I was focused on building my education and experience. I wasn't focused on the "job."

    You don't go to graduate school because you want a job afterward. You go to graduate school because you are in love with the discipline and you want to immerse yourself in the study of a narrow field and network with similarly interested individuals. A very small percentage of graduates do something that relates to their majors. Rather than focusing on becoming a business major, go ahead and major in art history or another subject you love.

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    Hiring Humanities and Fine Arts Majors (And Liberal Arts...)

    No longer are philosophers or English majors relegated to the land of obscurity and serving tacos. In fact, there are some companies that are going out of their way to recruit humanities, fine arts, and liberal arts majors. Some of these companies are hiring people with interesting backgrounds over business majors because of the ability these individuals have to think creatively. Law students are being hired as consultants for companies. Once again, you shouldn't worry too much about the end result. If you do what you love, you'll be much more content.

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    Wake Up, Ronda, We're in a Recession!

    If you think that doing what you love and following your passion is ridiculous because we are in a recession, think again. There are thousands of people who live their passion every day. In fact, doing something you love, and finding a niche in which to do it is a great way to survive a recession.

    For instance, if you love making pottery, and you hate your day job, why not find a way to make creating pottery your day job? It doesn't have to be a mystical thing. Find out how much it would cost to start showing your work at local events. Create a website. If you move toward your goals every day, you'll be able to discard that thing you do so you can pay your bills and embrace the work you'd really love to do.

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    Um...So...How Do I Follow My Heart?

    Start small. You don't want to just drop your current job in exchange for doing what you love—that is, unless you really like challenges. Sometimes getting a jump start on something with no safety net is just the poke in the butt you need to get going on that thing you always wanted to do. For the more timid and cautious at heart, though, you might want to start out by figuring out what it is you want to do. Dream big. If you could do anything, if money were no object, what would you do?

    Now, take baby steps towards moving toward that dream. If you want to be an activist, start volunteering. Get involved in causes that are important to you. If you want a Ph.D., study for the GRE, research schools, and apply. If you want to work with foster kids, find out what's required for licensing in your state. No matter what you've been told, whether you've come to believe that you need to make money and you can't do that following your passion, or what your perceived limitations are, if you take one step toward your goal each day, you will reach your goal. The only way you truly fail is by not trying.

    If you want to go to graduate school and you can't sleep because you're thinking about it, then do it. If you want to go to law school and you dream of being the next Ally McBeal, Elle Woods, Perry Mason, or Matlock, then do it. The only person who knows what is best for you, what you would be truly gifted at, is you.

    So, what would you do if you could do anything you wanted as your career? What is the first step you can take toward that dream?

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    References:

    Burke, T. "Should You Go to Graduate School?" Easily Distracted.

    Li, L. "When DO You Take the Plunge and Follow Your Passion?" Green Marketing

    Mataconis, D. "ABA Telling College Students: Don't Go to Law School." Outside the Beltway.

    Tamanaha, B. "The Coming Crunch for Law Schools." Balkinization.

    Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/497052