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Pursue Your Passion…Good Advice for Our Students?

EACE Blog contribution by Beth Settje, Senior Assistant Director, Internship Program – Center for Career Development at the University of Connecticut

well-informed-decisionsFor many years, advice has been circulating throughout many media outlets for people to pursue their passion to achieve career success. Other pearls of wisdom include ‘Do What you Love’ or ‘Follow your Dreams.’ Entertainers, business professionals, athletes and Presidents have spoken to this general attitude and behavior. The individuals dispensing this advice though, are often at the top of their game, highly successful in their field of choice and they in fact, are unusual, a break in the norm. As a career professional, I question this advice because it is both overused and incomplete, and may in fact be setting up our students for failure. The vast majority of people are not going to be rock stars, senators, CEO’s of multi-million dollar companies, etc. ‘Pursuing Your Passion’ is so broadly based, it does not account for talent, work ethic, determination, luck or priorities. Nor does it account for everyday realities that interfere with goals, regardless of their scope.

I do think it is very important to like what we do for a living and per se, aspire to find meaning in it, to make it worthwhile. It is also necessary to recognize and impart onto our students that their first job after college, is just that, their first job. Oftentimes students create a vision of their ideal job and believe they are going to acquire it right away. If they were to get that job right away, would any other job be downhill from there? What message are we sending students if we blindly support their endeavors, ignoring all elements of reality? What exactly is our role as career counselors and coaches?

If we, like those with greater star power than us, focus solely on Passion or to use our career vernacular-Interests-we will shortchange our constituents by not factoring any other element into the equation. To avoid being negative or ‘popping the balloon’ we are fortunate that we can introduce the Venn diagram highlighting Skills, Interests, Values, and Personality, we demonstrate how the intersection of these four aspects often leads to the students having greater insight into who they are and why they do what they do. We can guide and offer an objective perspective as the students figure out their career paths, offering an ear and encouragement, not false promises.

Supporting students to find work they enjoy, have an aptitude for, which matches their values, is what we do. It is exciting to meet a student who is uber involved and excited about what is going to happen next; their energy is palpable, and I applaud it. I am also hopeful that this exuberance follows them to the professional world. I just don’t want them going into the world with their eyes closed, believing Passion is all it takes to get ahead and be successful. And for the record, lest anyone believe I am burned out or negative in my role, that would be very far from the truth. I am an enthusiastic member of our profession, and am grateful to have found a career that encompasses all I want and more. Ideally, our students will be as fortunate in their lifetime.



Beth Settje

Beth Settje

Beth S. Settje has been working in higher education for over 20 years, and in career development for the past 12, with a focus on internships since 2005. Beth earned her BS in Business Administration from Arcadia University and her M.Ed in College Student Personnel from the University of Maryland.  Beth currently works at The University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT, as the Senior Assistant Director, Internship Program.

  1. gmonizns #

    Do what you love is tough advice for a college student (and unrealistic for most as well). Finding personal strengths, and aligning a career search to those strengths, is often the best first steps. I’d also ask them to look at their current network and find friends who are 3-5 years out of school. Find someone with a role you’d think you’d enjoy and begin working towards that.

    September 12, 2014
  2. Sue Levine #

    Great post – I agree with your philosophy.

    September 16, 2014

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