She called me because she was confused about her next step in her career.
Miriam, a 32-year-old mother of 4, used to work as a personal trainer in a gym. But then she took a few years off to be with her children. Now she is really eager to get back into the work world and she asked me to help her weigh her options.
The discussion went something like this:
MIRIAM: “What I’ve always wanted to do is be a therapist. I’ve always loved to talk to people like that and help them. A friend of mine is doing one of these 1-year training programs where you can get your counseling diploma quick, and I’m thinking about doing the same.”
ME: “That sounds interesting. What is your main goal for your career? Is it to help people, self expression, to make money?”
MIRIAM: “Of course I want to help people, but I need to earn money. I feel so insecure knowing that I’m not helping support my family right now. We need the money, and we are going to need it even more in the future. I know of therapists who are earning $200 an hour. Of course, I don’t expect to earn that much in the early days. Maybe just $60-$70 an hour.”
ME: “That may be possible but I think it can be difficult to attract clients.”
MIRIAM: “I realize that and I don’t expect to walk into a full-time practise. If I had just 10 clients a week, I’d be doing great. Even 5 clients a week would be just fine. I’d be earning $1,400 a month for 20 hours work. That’s more than I earned from personal training!”
ME: “Ummm… Did you enjoy personal training? Did you have good clients?”
MIRIAM: “Yes, I enjoyed it and I liked my clients. But it’s not really what I want to do with my life! I’ve always felt drawn to therapy.”
What would you advise Miriam to do?
Personally I’m quite confused here. There is a part of me that wants to cheer as everyone runs off into the sunset in pursuit of their career destiny. I’d like to be fondly remembered as “one of the few people who believed in me.”
On the other hand, I’ve become Mrs-Realistic-and-Practical over the years. Having kids and a mortgage tends to have a sobering effect on even the most whimsical of dreamers.
But then again, who am I to poo-poo Miriam’s dreams of doing a quickie training program and becoming a sought-after, high-earning therapist? I’m not G-d. I’ve seen more unlikely twists than that in my own career. (One day I’ll tell you the story of how I accidently got hired as a translator by the Supreme Court of Israel while doing my homework for a translation certificate course )
Naomi’s Rule of Parnasa Pitfalls
I’ve talked to many “Miriams” in my adventures advising people about their parnasa. I am always respectful of the process that each person needs to go through before making a decision. That takes real effort for me. So often people I talk to are choosing between a career option or business opportunity in which they have a high chance of earning a good parnasa, and “what they always wanted to do,” but they lack profesional experience and reliable parnasa potential.
Business ideas involving music, art, creative writing, coaching, alternative healing and “lite” forms of therapy most often play on people’s deeper dreams for making a difference in the world.
Yet, as a rule of thumb, I tend to shy away from any profession that forces you to go-it-alone, with no salaried career oppurtunities to help you through those tough initial stages. These are NOT great for someone who needs to earn real money any time in the next five years. (And forget about MLMs and GRQs – I don’t have any compunction warning people away from them.)
So please don’t tell anyone but I’m secretly biased towards the more solid, “boring” career options. (Unless, of course, you don’t need money. In that case, go for it!)
“But what about my passions?” You may ask me. “What about my dreams?”
Well, I would be the last person on earth to tell you to ignore your dreams, creative talents and passions. They are a gift from G-d, a source of vitality and pleasure for you. However, if you are like most people, your deepest dreams and passions are hard to make money from (or, as we say in the world of the Web, they’re hard to monetize).
Meanwhile, G-d created an imperative to put bread on the table for our families. This seems to be a clear message that working in a job that can earn a decent income is a major priority.
But don’t worry about neglecting your life’s dreams.
They won’t go away.
They will always be with you, tugging at your soul with a yearning to fulfill them.
And though they seem to fade at times, I’ve noticed that they always come back eventually!
But I Hate My Job!
I know from experience that it can be torture to do work that you don’t enjoy. If you hate your work, it’s time to think about a change. Most people I know who are successful with Parnasa are doing lucrative work that they enjoy, or even love. But if you ask them what their true life passion is, they will tell you: “Well, actually it’s making music… or feeding the hungry… or learning Torah… or writing poetry… or energy healing… or counseling people on a crisis hotline.”
They do what they love, the money follows, and they fulfill their life’s purpose on the side.
When living this way, there is always a danger that you will neglect your passion due to the pressures and demands of your paid job, or other responsibilities.
It’s up to you to carve out the time and resouces you need to nurture your dreams. If you are already overstretched, sometimes a pick-axe may be required to do this successfully. But it is possible.
Personally I have found other secret benefits to keeping my dreams on the sidelines. My main income comes from marketing consulting for clients, especially for one main client, a web development company called New Edge Design. I really enjoy this work and I’m maybe even a bit obsessed with it, but it is not my passion in life.
What is my real passion in life? The first thought that comes to mind, as you can probably guess if you have been reading this blog for a while, is helping other people succeed in their parnasa. I could try turn this passion into my main source of income: I could go into HR, or I could get hired by a employment promotion organization, or I could start a head-hunting company, etc. I’ve considered these options seriously from time to time, and they are actually all promising parnasa options. But I’m so glad I did not go in that direction.
Instead I do what I call “Parnasa Strategy” consulting one-on-one on the side. Each month, I help 3-4 professionals and entrepeneurs decide on their next step forward. I’m interested in doing this more in the future, but right now I’m focused on making my main income from web marketing.
And this has two big benefits:
- I’m not desperate for clients or earnings. Nothing ruins your passion for your passion like a desperate need to succeed in it, or failure in your attempts to make it “successful.” When it comes to your dreams, your success should be measured by the quality of the experience and not profits (though I do charge money for my consulting services, but not out of a need to survive).
- I can do my own thing. In my work as a web marketer, I’m constantly bowing to the requests, opinions and trends of my clients and the market. And that’s fine and normal. But my passion is sacred to me and so much a part of me, and I would hate to have to “fake it” in order to succeed. This way I can live my passion on my own terms, since I do not need other people to notice me, approve of me, or hire me (though I love it when they do).
But now that I’m thinking, I’m not sure that Parnasa consulting is my true passion, although I love it. Probably my deeper dreams lie in some unidentified territory between writing, public speaking, creative brainstorming, personal development, inspiring people and saving the world. Like most passions, it’s fluid and intangible and not the kind of thing you ever see in a job description.
“Do what you love and the money will follow,” is famous career guidance advice you hear all the time.
I totally agree. Pursue work that you love, that interests you, that you find fascinating and fun… but it doesn’t have to be your lifelong dream and passion.
In my opinion, you’re better off it’s not.
Do you agree?