Love What You Do (Part 2 of 2)

In our last post we said, love what you do. But this post is about the practicality that you need so you can continue loving what you do.

Will sauteeing successfully pay for food truck bills? What’s Plan B if no one buys? (Image courtesy of College Girl Cooks)

Love what you do, but be able to pay your bills. This may seem true more often than not for artists, creative professionals, writers, and thinkers. But it is also true for businesspeople. You may love the idea of starting your own business or selling a particular product. But think long term and ask yourself if there is a future in it. And if there isn’t, what is your plan B?

Get the right education. There’s a great line in the movie Mississippi Masala, “They can take everything away from you, but not your education.” So very true. Because there is no substitute for the solid, and invaluable foundation a formal education can give you. Worldwide, an education opens doors, offers new horizons, and opportunities. But be sure to get the right education, or at least, dispense with any illusions of what your particular education may get you. In the US, for example, college is expensive. Even for the rich. And in the DC area in particular, it’s quite normal for a majority to have more than a BA. Ask yourself if the education you are pursuing is going to actually reap the rewards you seek. Be honest with yourself about what it is going to cost to get your degree, how you are going to pay for it, what you are going to do with it afterwards, and whether that life is going to make you happy.

Investigate the road and life ahead. Talk to people in the profession that appeals to you and find out what your job prospects are. Ask what the career trajectory is, and if that path is for you. For example, many a lawyer burns out, because the billable hours expected, and the sheer number of hours you put into the job does not, in fact, reduce when you make partner. And many an entrepreneur trades in being his/her own boss for the safety and stability of a paid job. Even more entrepreneurs go into business with the plan of retiring or selling the business for a profit. Talk to people who have done that. Ask them what exactly that meant, how much work and hours per day went into that achievement, and what they are proud of or what they regret. And ask yourself if that is what you want.

Look at the big picture – especially if you’re a creative person. So you are definitely going to get that art history degree, because the thought of spending the next few years power pointing and group projecting your way through business school makes you want to run for the hills. Fair enough. But know that not all degrees and educations are equal. And that upon graduation, you may find yourself looking longer, harder, and at less paying jobs than your engineering or accounting major friends. Know that although you are probably far more diverse in what you offer an employer in the long run, it will be years before that is apparent to the job market.

Plan B – learn skills. This is where real life comes in. There used to be a reason your parents would tell you to “learn a trade.” What they meant was, be able to do something for which you can get paid. Today, in the corporate environment, that means getting an internship, or work experience that you will not learn in school. It means learning to get through the day so that you are not an educated but functionally clueless drain on a boss who has to show you or tell you how everything works. This is true even if you’re in the STEM fields or non-creative fields. Because the right education should open your eyes to what you DON’T know or learn in class. And that’s the daily give and take, and routines and rhythms of life in an office environment, a business negotiation, the challenge of paperwork, or collegial relationships. All of which are essential to your success. Unless you’re another Einstein. (In which case, we’re very flattered that you are bothering to read this post. Er, why are you reading this post? And what did you think of it?)