Does Passion Equal Happiness on the Job?

During these pandemic days, everyone seems to be reevaluating many aspects of life, including career options. Have you recently wished you were more “passionate” about your work? And if you were, would it make a difference about how you felt about your career?

Millennials are frequently the butt of criticism when it comes to reasonable job expectations. Their pie-in-the-sky assumptions about the workplace are often looked down upon by the presumably older and wiser crowd of co-workers, especially boomers.

One of the more ridiculed millennial workplace expectations is that a key prerequisite for job satisfaction is that one needs to be passionate about one’s work. The expectation is so popular it even recently drew the attention of the Harvard Business Review.

Defining Passion in the Legal Profession

In the article, the author, Jon Jachimowicz, cautioned that people need to be more realistic about the possibilities. He gives the following advice:

Be flexible about defining what constitutes passion.

The legal profession provides two lenses to achieve passion: you can focus on either the goal of the work or the means to achieve that goal.

For example, an estate planning lawyer can be passionate about helping clients achieve peace of mind about asset distribution in the best possible manner. Alternatively, that same lawyer could also be passionate about the problem solving inherent to the process of planning solutions.

In a perfect world, one is passionate about both; i.e. the goal itself and performing the tasks necessary to achieve the goal. If not, hopefully, the passion for one will compensate for the lack of passion for the other.

Focusing on the Right Things

Focus less on what brings you joy and more about what you care about.

Jachimowicz further maintains that it may be totally unrealistic to expect a job to make you happy. From this viewpoint, it’s much more realistic to see passion as understanding your values and then ensuring that your job is consistent with those values.

Let’s go back to the estate planner. Perhaps you’re someone who is bored by the tedium of drafting documents or proofing for the nth time. You can still find passion in knowing that you are fulfilling your values of helping others and making a difference.

In the Eye of the Beholder

At the end of the day, it seems that passion may be in the eye of the beholder. In other words, as lawyers love to tell their clients, “it depends.”

Whether you are passionate about your job depends upon how you define passion. If you’re flexible about that, the millennial pursuit of workplace passion may make sense after all.

I am the general counsel for a high tech company in the Twin Cities. I’ve learned that in order to be successful as an in-house attorney, it takes more than simply doing quality legal work. Oftentimes, my biggest challenges are managing the rel…" Read the rest
– General Counsel, Minneapolis, MN corporation

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