Brilliant advice from Margaret Wente:
“Do what you love,” we urge our children, as if there’s a dream job out there just for them. But “do what you love” is probably the worst career advice in the world. It implants the notion that doing what you love can produce a sustainable livelihood – which isn’t always the case, alas. It also sends the message that if you don’t wind up doing what you love, then you’re a flop. That’s how you get freelance writers who are still living in a basement apartment at age 35 and wondering why things haven’t worked out the way they were supposed to.
Sometimes you have to compromise in life, but we don’t want to break this crushing news to our children. Personally, I’ve met far too many young adults who graduate from university with plans to work in development/save the world/find a career in environmental sustainability. There’s nothing wrong with these noble aspirations. What’s amazing is that no adults have ever levelled with them.
Reality will bite soon enough, of course. The idea that your job should be your passion is a misguided romantic notion that only the upper-middle-class can afford to entertain. In fact, most people wind up in areas that nobody ever talks about. “Insurance is a very interesting field,” Mr. Laurie assured me. “But no one says ‘I want to go into insurance.’ ” ...
I’m afraid they could be in for a hard landing.
It sounds curmudgeonly to say things like this. But when you read some of the stories in Wente's article and when you know so many people who have experienced these things in person (as many of us do when we work with younger people), it seems important that this advice be given now and then.
Some of us have been lucky. I love economics and I love teaching, so I got to do what I love. I have a number of friends who love computer work and gaming who have found lucrative employment doing those things.
At the same time, I have loads of other friends who haven't been so lucky and who seem uneagre to face their own reality. Sometimes the things people love just don't pay very well, if at all.
For some reason, I'm reminded of the t-shirt that people on rec.theatre used to laugh about back in the old days of usenet:
So, you're an actor!