Do What You Love. No Really.

by William S. Frank, President/CEO of CareerLabĀ®

In the mid-1980s, Marsha Sinetar, PhD, wrote a book called Do What You Love: The Money Will Follow. The cynical side of me said, “Yeah, the money will follow . . . way later, if at all.” Or, “The money will follow if you want to be a massage therapist or pet sitter, not a corporate executive.”
Now that I’ve been a career consultant to business leaders for 35+ years, I see things much differently. I’m less cynical. I believe we should cultivate our greatest gifts, follow our dreams, and be highly-paid doing it. In my consulting practice I’ve found that it’s almost easier to earn a lot of money doing something you love than something you dislike. Here’s an example:
In a typical industry consolidation, Steve Sehnert’s oil company was sold to a Texas-based oil corporation and relocated to Houston, the U.S capitol of Oil & Gas. Not only did they close the Denver office, but they knocked the buildings to the ground and hauled them away in dumpsters. Everyone who was a manager was let go.
This was a shock and surprise because Steve had hoped to retire there.
I helped Steve talk about the loss and we began planning his future. It was clear that he enjoyed being a Chief Financial Officer. His face lit up when told me about interlocking Excel spreadsheets and pivot tables (whatever they are). He even showed me a few Excel tricks with the mouse.
The painful part was deciding where he wanted to work. It’s a big world out there. Steve didn’t want to relocate. That limited his choices, but there were still 450,000 companies and 75 industries in Denver.
As the weeks passed, his fear and anxiety about placing himself in the world unsettled him. Having heard his autobiography, I knew Steve pretty well; so I asked some clarifying questions:
     “Steve, you ride your bicycle all the time, don’t you?
     “Yes, I sure do.”
     “You probably ride 50 or 60 miles every week, I’d guess.”
     “More like 250 to 300.”
     “You do charity races, too, benefits for breast cancer and 
       Lou Gehrig’s disease, right?”
     “All the time.”
     “And if I remember correctly, you’ve done the 6-day 450-mile ‘Ride the                    Rockies’ charity race every year for 10 years, haven’t you?”
     “Sure have and I’ve got the saddle sores to prove it.”
There was a long pause here. And I asked,
     “Hey, Steve, have you ever considered being CFO in the bicycle industry?”
     “No, I’ve never thought about that.”
     “Well, let’s think about it.”
Steve and I put a marketing plan in place targeting the bicycle world. Instead of telling his friends and acquaintances something like “I want to continue to be a CFO but I’m not sure where (or it could be anywhere),” he began saying, “I want to be a CFO in the bicycle industry: manufacturing, racing, or outdoor adventure.”
That was much clearer and easier for Steve and the job market to understand.
Within a few months Steve became the Chief Financial Officer for a company that manufactured parts for high-end bicycles, and then later moved to the CEO role. As a signing bonus, they gave him a totally tricked-out Giant mountain bike with dual shocks and disk brakes.
The moral of the story is that sometimes we look too far afield. We ride our horse in all directions and drown ourselves in online job postings. The real answer could be found in our own interests and passions.
If you’re confused about where to go in the job market, look close to home. Forget about what you like or what you could do if push came to shove. Focus on what you love doing.
What you really love doing.