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Do I Study for Love or Money?

Posted January 10, 2019, by Emily Garbutt

As you think about your future, and decide what you will study next, a big question will rear its head. Should you study for love or money? The golden goose of career paths satisfies your passions and your pocket. But often what you enjoy most may not offer the highest salary figures. 

Traditionally, people viewed the workplace as somewhere where you did what you had to do, to earn what you needed to survive and hopefully you could also thrive. If you had the ability to aim for a high paying career path (lawyer, Dr, etc) then you should and would. Never mind if you actually enjoyed the work. People could follow their passions in the evenings, weekends and on their annual leave

However, change is in the air, and more and more people have had an epiphany. They realise “I spend MOST of my time at work, therefore, what if, WHAT IF I actually enjoy my work?! Surely my quality of life would improve.” 

A Seek study has shown 57% of Australian employees are considering a career change. 43% of those will look to change career over the next 12 months. From the options given to them, most people have something intrinsic behind their desired career change (29%). 16% of respondents want to change career because they want to do something more fulfilling while 13% want to follow their passion.  

The survey demonstrates while people do often set out to find employment which is financially beneficial, a mighty 53% of working adults will then want to pursue a career change later on in life because they want to do work which they will find more enjoyable. 

This prompts me to ask, why not set out on a track which will bring you enjoyment in the first place? 

Pragmatism 

The answer to this question lies in the belief that passion and fulfilment, basically often won’t enable us to thrive financially. Pragmatism drives us to reason: pursuing passions costs money, and to earn money I have to work, and therefore, I need money to live a life of enjoyment. We tend to think we can’t live a fulfilled life at work AND earn the money we need.  

People dream of what they could do if they earned X number of dollars a month. Ahh if only I had X amount each month, I could go surfing every week with a new board. Or if I had X amount coming in each month I could travel. Or if I have X amount, I could buy the best camera equipment, or the latest computer, or a bigger TV and on and on. 

So, we start to do our research on the most-high earning jobs. We research where the demand is. We want to know what are the industry trends? Where are the jobs? What are they? And which ones will get me the most dough. Unsurprisingly there is a whole lot more information and research conducted aimed at answering these questions, like in the 2018 Australian Jobs publication. There isn’t a whole lot of research conducted on the statistic's behind the people who want career changes (believe me I looked). Even though, after 10 years of loveless working people do often change their career and finally decide to pursue their passions.

What do the statistics say? 

On the whole, the picture revealed by the statistics shows right now times are good in Australia. Overall employment is up, meaning we are living in a period of growth. The Australian Jobs publication says: 

“Which industries have gained or lost jobs? Over the five years to November 2017, about 1.2 million new jobs were created across 14 industries (although these were partly offset by job losses in others). The largest numbers of new jobs were created in Health Care and Social Assistance (up by 301,600); Construction (188,800) and Education and Training (126,500). Five industries recorded employment falls (although some subsectors within these industries had jobs growth). The largest losses were in Manufacturing (down by 58,800); Mining (52,900) and Wholesale Trade (50,900). The Department of Jobs and Small Business produces annual employment projections by industry for the following five years. For more information on the expected employment change by industry over the five years to May 2022 see the Industry Outlook on page 30.” - Australian Jobs 2018 

The Australian Jobs 2018 publication notes some powerful positive changes over recent years. Opportunities in manufacturing, forestry, and agriculture have declined. But new opportunities in the service industry (more than three in every four Australian workers are employed in a service industry) and other industries such as HealthcareRetail, ConstructionProfessional, Scientific, Technical Services, Education and Training have stopped the gap and overall there has been positive growth. 

What then, if you are passionate about manufacturing, or agriculture? Should you now forget about pursuing a career in one of those fields? Healthcare and Social Assistance, construction and Education are growing but what if you have no interest in those areas? Should you then forge ahead and train to work in one of those fields anyway? 

Our simplistic thinking  

I think the answer is not a straightforward one, and often when we consider our career path, we can be too simplistic. 

For example, if we like to make art, we study art, learn how to make art and then we intend to become an artist. Or if we study history, we learn this practice and then we think we will become a historian. Well, what if you enjoy history but don’t want to become a historian? What we do is we oversimplify. If you study history this doesn’t mean there is only one job path open to you. There are many and there may even be future jobs which haven’t been thought of yet which will open up to you in the future. 

UX design is a big thing now. There is a clear need for people with the skills required to perfect user experiences for customer bases. Yet, how many universities offer UX design as a standalone BA degree? As this job emerged into existence people began to fill the roles who had a background in design or in software development. There wasn’t a pre-set study path because this was a new job which emerged as modern technology and the internet exploded. 

The job market changes

My point here is, that the job market will always change. And even if you study for your sure-thing big salary job, if you don’t enjoy the work, you will live a half-life as you live for the weekends and your annual leave.  

However, if you follow your passion from the get-go even if there are no guarantees of bringing home a large pay packet, you have a better chance of finding fulfilment at work and this life fulfilment is worth more than gold. Because you will feel alive every day, not just alive part-time. 

Furthermore, the reality of life means that the skill sets you develop as a part of your studies, and then the work experience you build up, all come together and make you uniquely you. Those skills and experiences could leave you well positioned in the future to move into a new kind of job no-one thought of yet. Or you might find yourself creating new job opportunities for others as you follow your passions. 

If you are interested in a declining industry maybe the skills and features of the work already exist in another growing job market. For example, agriculture is declining but this remains a critical field with big challenges to face and solve. Perhaps, you may help to resolve some of the problems the industry face. After all, passion is always behind success. 

“The question you shouldn't be asking is, "What do I want?" or "What are my goals?" but "What would excite me?” ― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek 

Furthermore, once you know what excites you, those skills could open doors for you which you can’t possibly foresee right now. So, focus on developing skills and interests which you like, which you feel passionate about doing all the time, and those things will sometimes evolve into a path you couldn’t have anticipated. 

My story (don’t let it be your story) 

When I was at school it never occurred to me to write for a living, even though writing was something I enjoyed and did all the time. I wasn’t a novelist, I wasn’t good at asking questions (so Journalism was out), I wasn’t quite academic enough to excel in academia. Yet, now 10 years after I graduated from university, I find myself writing for a living as a freelancer. Content is king as the internet has changed the way we do business and communicate. Only now, do I realise that writing is a skill, (as well as an activity I enjoy), and something I can do which others now place value on. If when I was at school, I had focused more on developing my skills in the areas I enjoyed and was good at, I could have spent a lot more of my life enjoying my work. 

The future 

In a 2017 talk by Dr. David Gruen (Deputy Secretary, Economic, and G20 Sherpa), he discusses Technological Change and the Future of Work. The big national worldwide picture is always relevant when we also consider how we will approach our own personal path. As we look to the future of work he concludes: 

“I will end by offering some reflections on what policies are most likely to best support the future of work. 

First, staying open to the world ― to ideas, trade and investment. 

No country by itself can come close to developing and harnessing the ideas that the over 7 billion people in the rest of the world can collectively offer.[2] 

Second, and the corollary to openness, is to have in place policies that help communities adapt to technological change, especially when jobs have been lost and alternative employment possibilities require people to move. 

Third and finally, domestic policies that promote a more productive economy. Picking winners for industries or geographic areas is probably harder to do than it was in the past. But improving infrastructure and education are critical ingredients to give workforces the best chance for whatever the future will bring.” 

What should we do?

The future of work lies in our ability as a nation and as individuals to be able to pivot and we can best do this by developing our own personal skill sets built on our passions. As the world of work changes there are certain sectors which offer growth and some security from increasing automation. Non-routine and cognitive jobs will always require human input, but within these fields there is huge scope for different roles and career paths. 

And if you still think focusing on a career path which will line your pockets with gold (no-matter your interests), then I’ll finish with two quotes from the 4-hour work week: 

“Money doesn't change you; it reveals who you are when you no longer have to be nice”  
― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek 

“It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor.”  
― Timothy Ferriss, The 4 Hour Workweek, Expanded And Updated: Expanded And Updated, With Over 100 New Pages Of Cutting Edge Content 

Emily Garbutt

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