Doing What You Love VS Doing What Pays Well – The Judgement Passed

By: Tayla Jane Koeberg

There is this underrated war between people who choose a career that they love and people who choose a career that will pay well, and it has to be discussed. We judge each other for these choices not realising that they are completely situational.

When I say situational, I am referring to the circumstances in which you live. If your parents are fairly wealthy or have well established careers, you are generally encouraged to follow your dreams or the career path of your choice without the pressure to primarily focus on making a lot of money. There are a few cases where you are expected to continue the family line of success in a similar career field, but for the most I’ve found that people with wealthier parents tend to choose a career path that will be more fulfilling to themselves. Then they get criticised by the money hungry individuals with lines like “You’ll never find a job” and “You won’t get paid well with that degree”.

Now let’s say you come from a fairly disadvantaged background and you are presented with the opportunity to further your studies. Obviously you are not going to be encouraged to follow your passion if your passion is not a scarce skill career or won’t pay well. You would want to do anything you can to better your circumstances, not only yours but that of your family as well. Then people judge and say that you are just doing what other people want you to do, and you aren’t following your passion so you might not like your job.

This has to stop. Technically it will never stop, but we have to realise that people choose different career paths for different reasons, and it is not our place to decide which is better – doing what you love or doing what pays well. My colleagues and I often have this discussion during our lunch break, some are firm believers in doing what you love and others believe that you have to do what will put food on the table.

I used to have this dream of being a film director or writer, but I ended up studying Industrial Engineering. At first it was because I wanted job security and an overall decent salary, but I actually ended up loving the course even though it wasn’t my initial “dream career”. The fear of being poor is real. I often get judged because people think that I was forced into studying something I didn’t really want to study but that’s not the case at all. I was aware of the circumstances in which I lived in (which aren’t bad at all actually, I have all that I need) and found something that I thought I’d enjoy and offered a fair amount of job security. I’m doing my 3rd year which is practical work and I am genuinely enjoying it, and who knows maybe someday I’ll direct a film, but one thing is for sure, I’ll always have my BTech in Industrial Engineering to fall back on.

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Personally I feel that we need to find the balance between doing what we love and doing something that we can be sure to find a job with after we study. However, one thing we definitely need to do, is stop criticising each other for these choices and open up our minds as to why someone is studying something they don’t enjoy but is a scarce skill career, and why someone is studying something they are passionate about but it might not offer as much job security. The message I would like you to take from this is to ultimately stop being so critical of each other in terms of career choices.

Below are a few links that may assist you when choosing your career:

10 most satisfying careers

Scarce skill careers in South Africa

What’s your dream career?’ quiz – FYI I got rocket scientist and you don’t actually have to do what they tell you to, so please don’t accuse me of ruining your life.

List of bursaries in South Africa

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