Purpose vs. Paycheck: How to Strike a Balance

Originally published on Post Grad Purpose

Ever since I was little I always said I would never take a job just for the money. Case in point, I am now a newspaper reporter (and broke af). My dad would always tell me I should be a doctor or a lawyer, but those fields never appealed to me.

“But think of how rich you’d be!” my dad would say.

“Think of how unhappy I’d be,” I would reply.

For me it’s always been more important to be happy than rich. Not that I’m not trying to sound morally superior or anything. It’s just that whenever I would imagine the long, grueling hours a doctor works or the technical, legal jargon lawyers read all day, I would cringe. I knew neither of those careers would bring me happiness. Writing, though, that’s always made me happy. The reason it makes me happy – it means something to me.

There’s definitely a trend among millennials to value passion and purpose over a big, fat paycheck. Obviously there are still plenty of young people trying to climb the corporate the ladder, but there are also a lot of recent college grads forging their own paths. We understand that life is about more than being a slave to your cubicle.

I’ve always been drawn to stories about people who found their calling and were passionate about their work. When someone is passionate about something, it radiates out of them. That passion is what makes a bad day at work bearable. You can manage the stress because you love what you’re doing. And when you’re passionate about your job or career, it shouldn’t always feel like work. I don’t mind hard work, but I want to be invested in it. I want to know there’s meaning behind what I’m doing.

I would never want a job that sucked the happiness out of my life. I truly don’t understand the point. Now I know that some people need to take whatever job they can get. This isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the people who set themselves on a career path despite having no interest in the field. The people who are purely looking to make as much money as possible despite the effect it has on their emotional and mental well being.

Unfortunately, some people find themselves in situations where their job or career field is making them miserable and they want out. Or, they follow their dreams and wind up unable to pay their bills each month. Neither of these situations are ideal, but I think they can be remedied with a little side work and a leap of faith.

If you’re in a career you hate wishing you could go back to college with a do-over in a major you’re passionate about, first of all, don’t beat yourself up. This is where the side hustle and volunteering come in. Doing either will give you valuable skills and connections to make a career change. (More on both of these topics in later blog posts, I promise.)

The side hustle is also ideal if you’re chasing your dreams and falling short on rent. And it’s important to be realistic. I want to be an author, but I’m not forgoing a steady job so I can work on my novel all day. Sometimes you have to pay your dues and put in the work so you can get where you want to be in life.

I think living a life with meaning is so important because if you’re not striving to do the things you care about and things that bring you happiness, what are you doing? Money won’t give your life meaning, and to be cliche, it won’t buy you happiness. Doing work that gives your life purpose is key and I’m glad I’m in a cohort of post grads that agree.


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