Are you passionate about your job, or do you love your job?
Though that may be an odd question, after reviewing some results in CMI’s Content Marketing Career & Salary 2024 Outlook, I wonder about it.
More than half (54%) of content marketers say they are often engaged at work. Only 8% say they were not engaged. These numbers differ significantly from employees in other fields. A recent Gallup poll (registration required) found that 52% of U.S. workers report they are not engaged with their work.
But does engagement translate into feeling satisfied in your job? Nearly one-third (31%) of the marketers in CMI’s research say they are actively or highly interested in looking for a new role.54% of content marketers say they’re often engaged at work. Nearly one-third say they’re looking for a new role, according to @CMIContent #Research via @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet
This tension reminds me of the difference between being passionate about your job and loving what you do.
Mistaking passion for love leads to burnout
Every day, you are bombarded with messages about equating your job with your passion or, if that’s not possible, directing your passion into a side-hustle that can ultimately become your career.
That thinking can derail you from doing what you love to do.
I have a friend. Let’s call her Beth. She worked here in my hometown of Los Angeles as a director of digital content for one of the biggest movie studios in the world. She was not only passionate about creating content but also about getting to work on some of the most iconic entertainment brands. Beth worked 70 to 80 hours a week with people whose normal way of communicating was to yell. She was expected to work all the time, including holidays. She rarely took even a few hours for herself.
After five years, a divorce, and some serious health issues later, Beth was extremely burned out. She discovered the job didn’t care for her nearly as much as she thought she cared for it.
Side passions aren’t always love
Even more insidious thinking than that is convincing yourself that you must leave a job and replace it with your passion.
Maybe you hate a job that’s passionate about you. I know this sounds weird, but I promise it does exist. Some people really dislike their job, but they stay because they’re really good at it. The company keeps giving them more money and responsibilities to keep doing it.
I know a head of product marketing. Let’s call him Mike. He works for one of the largest software companies in the world. He’s been with the company for 12 years, and he hates his job. But Mike has proven to be skilled at everything that defines his job. He’s at the top of his game. The company clearly values him.
So, Mike felt compelled to direct his efforts into a side passion to balance his life. His passion is food and wine. He created a foodie magazine and blog. For five years, he desperately tried to turn his passion for food and wine into a profitable business so he could leave the job he hated.
Both Mike and Beth had passion, but neither had love.
Passion and love for work are different
Passion is a strong and barely controllable emotion. In fact, the dictionary defines passion, among other things, as “the state or capacity of being acted on external agents or forces.” When you’re passionate, you’re not in control. The word originates from the Latin word “passio” – to suffer or endure.
Passion is a longing desire for something where intrusive thoughts idealize the nature of the relationship. It usually comes early in the relationship and is intense. But here’s the thing: Passion cannot persist. It always ends.
That’s not to say that passion for your work can’t be healthy, rewarding, or even fun. But if your relationship with your job never evolves into what psychologists call “compassionate love,” you will always confuse the form of what you desire to do with the function of what you love to do.
Beth’s passion for creating content for an iconic entertainment brand was unrequited and thus never turned into love. She discovered what she really loved was not just creating content for an iconic brand but impacting people with the content she created. Full stop.
She mistook her love of the craft for the passion of the topic (or brand). She discovered compassionate love in a new job that valued her, reduced the yelling in her day-to-day life, and even paid her more money. She made her way to being a director of brand journalism at a financial services company.
Mike, on the other hand, discovered that he wasn’t in love – and didn’t have passion – for starting a publishing business. He found love by re-architecting his product marketing job and acknowledging that it was OK that software wasn’t his passion. He discovered he could love the company that loved him because it gave him the freedom to experience his true love of great food and wine for himself. He wasn’t required to make a profitable business out of the thing he really loved. He could just love it for what it was.
Great love inspires new work passions
One of my most heartened findings in the CMI career research was the importance of loving what you do. The most frequent response to “what content marketers want” from their job was “doing meaningful work.” Co-worker relationships and recognition for my work followed close behind. Professional development opportunities were sixth on the list.
What do you want? You want long-term, meaningful work where you can interact with people you like and be recognized for your contribution. You want love.
Where to find that love is the bigger question.
A quote, usually attributed to Lord Byron, says, “Love without passion is dreary. Passion without love is horrific.” I wholeheartedly agree. When you haven’t found love in your work, your passion seems unremarkable. Intense workday? Well, that just becomes Tuesday. That fire burns you out.
But when you truly love what you do, have self-knowledge, and can balance those moments of passion, however brief, you can obsess and lose yourself in the intensity of the activity. That fire fuels you.
Choose your fire carefully.
It’s your story. Tell it well.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute