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How true is the saying ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’?

IMAGE VIA GUCCI

WORDS BY HANNAH COHEN

The old phrase, debunked.

As I edge closer to the end of my time at university, I’ve been thinking a lot about the trajectory of my career, and I want to ensure that I end up loving what I do for work. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to work in the media. This fantasy was fuelled by my almost religious viewing of Sex and the City, The Bold Type, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and the like, films and television series that told me pursuing my burning passion for writing was the perfect formula for a fabulous working life as a journalist.   


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But when I think about chasing my dream career, my daydreams are often cut short by fretting that the old cliche, ‘Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life’ may just be one big ol’ sham.

Would working in my dream field fuel me with a rushing sense of purpose that would replace my need for a large triple-shot oat milk latte each morning? Or are there challenges I haven’t prepared for that I’ll be blindsided by later down the track? What if monetising my love for writing sucks out all of the joy I get from stringing sentences together? 

I needed to conduct some serious myth-busting to put my anxious mind at ease, so I sat down with Helen Green, a career counsellor and the director of Career Confident, to debunk whether this phrase actually spells out an achievable goal.

So, is it true? The short answer is kind of. The long answer? Helen assures me that while the phrase can be true to an extent (phew), there are always going to be inevitable obstacles that may stand in the way of making the most out of chasing a career in an area that we love. 

“We need to guard against the assumption that if you’re doing something you enjoy, it means that it will always be that way,” she shared. 

“There are some people who, if they’re doing what their passion is, it can actually ruin their passion, because they can have too much of a good thing. But it can certainly make work far more enjoyable and for some people, it may be that they feel like they’re never at work, because they’re doing what brings them joy, which is terrific.”

With that in mind, here’s the inside scoop on how to optimise working in your dream role and how to navigate, in Helen’s words, the “bumps along the way”.

Set boundaries

For me, writing is something that’s tied to my identity. When I write, it’s always a little personal, honest and often intimidatingly vulnerable, even if the words on the page are just for me.

I can’t deny that there is something exhilarating about having people read my work, but even though it’s been a long term dream I worry that adding the extra strain of money as an incentive to write may slowly drain the joy and replace it with insurmountable pressure. 

“It works for some people to merge interests with a job, but for others, it doesn’t, and it can become all-consuming. You can end up feeling exhausted, even hating it, feeling a sense of failure, and I have seen it impact people’s people’s mental health,” Helen warns. 

She tells me that in order to avoid this dreaded burnout, it’s important to keep some of your passion projects just for you. She advises that if you are going after your dream role, the key to keeping that love alive is maintaining a balance by making private time just for you and interests.

“It comes back to not putting that excessive pressure on yourself. And if you find that it’s getting too much, seek help.”

Future proof yourself

To give yourself the best chance at sustaining a rewarding career in an industry that you love, Helen suggests broadening your skill sets and continuing to learn widely about the field you’re entering. According to Helen, there’s always new opportunities for learning that can not only make you more employable, but also help to keep the flame for your work ablaze.

“Being updated about your industry, looking at any opportunity that you can learn, whether it’s going to a conference seminar, listening to podcasts, being seen to be curious and interested in keeping your skills updated and relevant, I think is really important,” she tells me. 

It’s also a good idea to assess some of your other interests and brush off the cobwebs on those hobbies you may be keeping at bay. After all, Gen Z workers are predicted to have around five different careers in their lifetime within industries that are constantly evolving.

So take Helen’s word for it and get yourself prepared for a rollercoaster of a working life in case you want to keep your options open and decide to side-step into something different. “We’ve got various talents and interests, but we might not have tapped into them. Because if we’re obsessed with one thing, we don’t tend to look anywhere else.”

Don’t set your expectations too high, too soon

If you’re like me and feel daunted by an Instagram feed filled to the brim with successful #girlbosses killing it in their industries, I hear you. Sometimes the pressure to achieve career milestones ahead of your time feels like the impossible new standard that young people entering the workforce have to meet.

But Helen assures me that it’s more than okay to be a little fish in a big pond. It’s all part of the journey of learning more about yourself as a professional and loving what you do.

“I deal with a lot of young people that are starting out in their careers, and being too hard on yourself and having unrealistic expectations of what you should be able to do or achieve in a specific period of time [isn’t helpful],” she explains.

“It’s really important that people [are] able to manage their expectations of themselves because often we’re harder on ourselves than other people are on us.”

She recommends that we try to remove this pressure and recognise that working your way up the ladder takes time and dedication. There’s no need to rush. “You’ve got to have that strength of conviction if you’re going to be following your passion.”

Want more tips on how to pursue your passion? Head here.

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