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Paycheck or passion?

Published January 23. 2010 09:00AM

We're living through some very interesting times right now. There are millions of Americans out there scrambling and struggling and just hoping to keep the bills paid after a layoff, downsize, or simply not being able to land a job. And, there is a small percentage of people who see this as the prime time to get into a field that really appeals to them and go after the career that they've always wanted. So the question is, "What's more important, a steady paycheck or a passion for what you do?"

Well, in a perfect world there would be a little bit of both. There are only a very lucky few who get to make a living at something that makes them hop out of bed and race to the office every day. These are the types who are among the first ones in and the last ones to leave each day, for the simple fact that they love what they do, they believe in their company's philosophy, and they can't do enough to share that greatness with the rest of the world. But then there's the other category that I think most of the workforce would fall into-those who show up faithfully every day, do the tasks they're supposed to do, contribute to a project or voice a great idea now and then, collect a paycheck, come home, and do the same thing tomorrow. It wouldn't be fair to say they hate their jobs, but they definitely don't have a passion for it, either. Employers are noticing a change in employee attitude, so this change is very real and happening all over the country. So is it better to linger in a job that you aren't in love with than take a big risk at what you think you were really meant to do, or throw caution to the wind?

Personally, I admire those who live on the edge a bit (so to speak) and take risks once in awhile. Within reason, of course. You wouldn't skydive without a parachute now, would you? I think there's such a thing as practical risk taking; as in, you do your research and your homework before you make a big decision, but in the end, you do make the leap. It's pretty foolish to jump into something with both feet before you know what you're getting into, but I know that lots of people live this way. I wish I were a little more of a risk taker, but I tend to play it safe. Don't get me wrong-I do my homework and my research and ask all kinds of questions, but when it comes right down to it, I'm usually too fearful to jump right in. Security, stability, and the lull of a familiar routine tend to win out every time.

So what's the answer? Plenty of folks are using this economic downturn to stretch themselves and really take on some new challenges. Others are still trying their hardest to find gainful employment in their field. The reality is that many "stable" fields simply don't exist anymore, and you may find yourself taking risks whether you'd planned to or not.

Back to that practical risk taking. Maybe we don't have to jump into something new with both feet, but there's nothing wrong with sticking a toe in to try it out. We can make small changes and work our way up to cutting the final tie to our old career and go after that new opportunity. If the new path is truly the right one, the drive to work in the morning won't go fast enough.

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