When Passion & Skills Don’t Match

Sure, it'd be nice if everyone's career path was simple - but that's not the way it works. So why don't colleges stop acting like it works that way?

Elizabeth Hoyt

April 27, 2015

When Passion & Skills Don’t Match When Passion & Skills Don’t Match

For many students, finding a career path is as easy as asking a simple question.

“What’s your passion?”

These students, having a passion that matches their skill set with reality aligning ever so perfectly, answer effortlessly.

“Well, I’ve always been passionate about helping children, I love science and everyone in my family is a doctor so I definitely want to pursue that field. I want to be a pediatrician. In fact, I have since I was little.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone’s career path was that simple? Sure it’d be nice if everyone’s career path was simple – but that’s not the way it works. So, why don’t colleges stop acting like it works that way?

If you’re anything like me, you stare blankly when asked the same career question because, unlike these students, your passions and skills don’t align quite so perfectly. Or, perhaps, your passion doesn’t quite translate into a lucrative, realistic career goal.

Coming from someone who has lived through this very scenario, here’s what students can do when passion, skill set and career path don’t align as perfectly as they should (and, quite frankly, they rarely do):

What if your passion doesn’t translate into your skill set?
When I was a student, I struggled with this immensely. I was always taught to follow my passion no matter what and things would work out. However, none of my passions aligned with my skill set.

I have always been passionate about animals and had always wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a small child.

The issue, however, was that I was (and still am) terrible at math and science – two very vital skills for veterinary students.

I thought to myself, if I listened to those telling me to pursue my passion, I’d not only struggle through veterinary school, but I’d probably make a terrible veterinarian, which kind of defeats the purpose of being a veterinarian and wanting to help animals in the first place.

Why struggle to be bad at something when I could pursue a career that I could actually be good at without struggling? I decided it made the most sense to let go of my childhood dream and pursue a career better aligned with my skill set – writing.

You may be surprised how much you enjoy your skill set.

I actually found that I really enjoy being good at something. When you’re good at something, you’ll have a lot more confidence and more opportunities – which translates into more freedom to do what you want to do. Perhaps you can get into a field related to your passion, in a position related to your skill set. Once you’ve defined your area of expertise, you have more options than you think.

You can find other ways to pursue your passion in life.

Even if you cannot translate your passion into your particular career field, you never have to let go of your passion all together. For example, I still volunteer with animals and lend my skills to local shelters and animal rescue organizations. I think I’m a better asset to them using my strong skill set than my weaker ones.

What if my passion isn’t a “realistic” career path?

Sometimes, passion and career path don’t line up because a passion may not be a realistic career path. That does not mean you should ever give up on your passion – but it’s always good to have a back-up plan.

Take the example of the childhood dream. While many of us had dreams as children that were unrealistic, we grew out of them. Perhaps you wanted to be a famous sports player, a musician, a famous actor, a dancer. Perhaps you still do.

The point is, that whatever your passion is, you need to consider the odds of it translating into a realistic career path after college.

If you obtained your degree today, would you be able to go out and interview for a position?

I am not suggesting that anyone give up on his or her dreams – I’m simply suggesting you pursue a career that allows you to live your life and continue to pursue your dream in tandem with said-career. Maybe, having a career that translates into your skill set will even allow you the financial means to pursue your passion (classes, travel, etc.).

Don’t ignore the realities of life.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of becoming an adult is reality. We know that, as much as we want to ignore the realities of life, we have to do things we do not want to do – like, paying the bills, for example.

Sure, I don’t want to pay bills and would rather not do it – but I have to because that’s just the way life works. So, it’s in my interest to pursue a career that will allow me to pay bills. It’s not about wanting a lot of money, it’s a fact of life.

Keep in mind…

Your career path is ultimately your decision. Know that not everyone is born knowing what he or she wants to pursue in life and that people can have more than one passion. I know I have several – and I would not be content with just one, in fact, I’d probably get bored.

Don’t let anyone tell you that it can be simplified into an answer to one question – sometimes it can be more complicated than that and that’s okay.

There’s nothing wrong with you if you can’t answer your entire life in one response to that vague question. I couldn’t and I turned out just fine, and you will, too!

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