Determining whether to prioritize the pursuit of wealth or personal fulfillment is perhaps the most critical aspect of choosing a career path, making a professional pivot, or pursuing an entrepreneurial idea.
However, it’s not necessarily easy to pick which path to take.
You need to pay your bills, but you don’t want to suffer from job burnout hate your entire working life. So, what do you do?
Let’s examine these seemingly incongruous career tracks to help guide your thinking. Hint: You actually have more than just two options!
Choosing a Career Path
Depending on your situation, you could end up on the path to:
- Both! (The Holy Grail)
- A Happy Medium
- Profit, then Passion
- Passion, then Profit
Let’s look at each in turn.
The Holy Grail
If your life’s mission aligns with a high paying profession, celebrate! You’re in an amazing position to do work that matters to you while earning an incredible living in the process.
After you jump up and down, though, take a moment to be grateful for your good fortune.
Most people don’t fall into this category, which is why the passion vs. money internal struggle can be so agonizing for many.
A Happy Medium
You may be able to find a healthy compromise between soul-enriching and wallet fattening.
This type of job would allow you to showcase your talents, derive some satisfaction from your work, and earn a respectable living.
You won’t necessarily feel like you’re answering your calling. And you may not build wealth as quickly as you’d like.
However, your financial needs will ultimately be met, and you’ll enjoy a reasonable level of professional satisfaction when opting for this career path.
Going the happy medium route can be a great plan if you haven’t figured out what your calling is yet.
Don’t worry — despite popular thought touting how great it is to follow your passion, it’s not uncommon to develop one over time, rather than just inherently knowing it.
If you put your salary above all else when choosing a profession, you may build wealth faster than your peers (assuming you manage your money well).
However, if you really dislike your job, it may be tough to stick it out long term.
Being unhappy at work can lead to higher levels of stress and depression, which will likely bleed over into your personal life.
Additionally, your state of mind could cause poor performance, which may result in disciplinary action or getting fired.
You obviously need to earn enough money to cover your desired lifestyle.
But, selecting a career path exclusively for financial gain may not be a good solution for your overall wellbeing.
If you find yourself in this position, consider doing one of two things: taking a lower-paying job and working a side hustle to make up the difference or reducing your expenses to require less income.
If you put carrying out your life’s mission above all else when choosing a profession, you may feel a deep connection to and satisfaction with your work.
However, if pursuing your passion means teetering on the financial edge, this situation is also hard to maintain for the long haul.
Further, if you turn your passion into an income generator you depend on, your calling could end up feeling like a chore.
While this will vary from person to person, some passion projects may be better left as hobbies. You don’t want to end up resenting the endeavor you love most.
You should definitely seek work you feel good about doing. However, if you choose a career path based solely on passion, you may end up in real financial trouble.
If you find yourself in this situation, consider doing one of two things:
- take on an appropriate side hustle to augment your current income, or
- secure one of those ‘happy medium’ roles
Note: Remember, though, you’re not locked into your choice forever. Your working life can transition between following your passion and pursuing the money when the time is right. Let’s explore how.
Profit, then Passion Career Path
You could commit to prioritizing money over personal mission until you reach a certain financial goal like financial independence.
That way, you’ll ensure your money needs are met and still ultimately have the opportunity to do meaningful work.
Knowing you’ll someday be able to change professional gears may be enough to get you through the working years you’re less than enthused about.
To make the most of this scenario, determine a specific timeline for achieving your financial goal and try to keep expenses low to expedite the process.
Additionally, you may also want to stay somehow connected to your calling.
Track how the industry evolves to ensure your relevant skills stay sharp and your interest level remains high.
Remember, your burning passion at age 25 may be a barely smoldering ember by age 40.
Caveat: While some people successfully make this transition, others do not. For a variety of reasons, they end up not achieving the financial stability needed to pursue their calling.
Passion, then Profit Path
On the other hand, you could opt to fulfill your destiny early on your career path journey and then focus on making money.
Going this route would also allow you to experience both personal fulfillment and high paying work.
Having a plan to build wealth after your calling has been answered may help to assuage your financial fears.
Interestingly enough, maximizing this situation also involves a solid career transition plan and tightened purse strings to preserve resources.
Additionally, you should think about how your passion work is preparing you for your next career target.
Keep tabs on the transferrable skills you are building and make a plan to address any potential skills gaps.
Finally, continuously gauge your commitment to making the transition.
Perhaps you’ll discover pursuing your passion pays enough to meet your financial needs after all.
Caveat: If you decide to follow this path, you may find it difficult to turn away from your work according to your plan. Staying this course longer than expected (or indefinitely) may lead to future financial problems.
Final Thoughts on Choosing a Career Path
Opting between pursuing a profitable career or following your passion is an intensely nuanced and personal decision. This article is meant to provide general information to help guide your thinking.
Before selecting your path, you’re encouraged to take some time for introspection. Consider:
- Will you agonize over not fulfilling a certain role for the rest of your life?
- Could you grin and bear a less than ideal job because you’re committed to reaching certain financial goals?
Truly knowing yourself will help you make professional career choices in line with your personality and life goals.
It may take some time for the answers you need to emerge and that’s OK.
If you’re still feeling unsure, consider speaking with a life, career, or decision-making coach to help you dig a little deeper.
Article written by Laura