Don’t Do What You Love. Do What You Are.

Don’t Do What You Love. Do What You Are.

You’ve no doubt heard this career advice before: “Do what you love.” Brazen Careerist founder Penelope Trunk calls this simple and idealistic advice absurd. Instead of trying to figure out what you love most and then find the perfect matching career, do what you are.

Photo by eyeidea (Shutterstock)

Sure, it sounds terrific to get paid to do what you love. For most of us, though, this is unrealistic and maybe even preposterous. As Trunk points out, none of us loves just one single thing, so how could you pick just one? We also don’t need to get paid to do what we love — after all, we love it, so we’d do it anyway.

That idea that we should only do jobs that we would do for free sets such a high, perhaps impossible standard. For some, this pressure of finding the perfect career leads to inertia or depression.

Often, the thing we should do for our career is something we would only do if we were getting a reward. If you tell yourself that your job has to be something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid, you’ll be looking for a long time. Maybe forever. So why set that standard? The reward for doing a job is contributing to something larger than you are, participating in society, and being valued in the form of money.

Instead of focusing on doing what you love, do what you are, based on your strengths and personality. The book Do What You Are can help or you could take a personality test such as the Myers-Briggs assessment. Or just take a job — any job — and discover your strengths.

Trunk’s advice isn’t against loving your work or having passion for your job. She’s just pointing out that “doing what you love” isn’t as important as simply doing work that is valued in the community. (Steve Martin has similar advice: Put your head down and focus on becoming valuable — so good they can’t ignore you — leading you to a working life you love.)

Her post is a great read, so if you’re feeling lost or in need of career direction, go check it out.

Bad career advice: Do what you love [Penelope Trunk]


  • Find a job that is satisfying and fulfilling – that’s heaps better than a job you love.
    I think of the song Mr Tanner – he loved what he did but lost it trying to make a living out of something he loved. Be careful of doing something you love for money – the money may just kill the love.

  • I think the main issue is, sometimes it takes a little time and persistence to become good and familiar with a job enough to actually love it….alot of the times we give up too early thinking we hate it.

    If we had stuck to it a little longer, gain some expertise, significant progress begins to appear and then we realise we actually “love” the job after all.

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