I am a dad, I write a blog called “What Would Dad Say,” have gray hair, and I'm active in an employment media site called LinkUp. All of which means I get a lot of questions and comments from Generation X-ers and Y-ers on job-related matters.
I love Gen X and Gen Y. I really do. I am not, however, in agreement with all the trendsetting books that purport to know how to manage or lead them. I have a feeling that most of those writers haven’t led anyone anywhere. I believe that traditional leadership models work no matter the age group, business model, situation, or industry niche.
There is one thing that I do hear more now from members of the younger generation: The wish to have a meaningful career or to have an impact on others. It is most commonly expressed this way: “I want to find a job that I can be passionate about.”
Don’t we all? Seriously, we wanted this too, we just didn’t verbalize or articulate it as often or as forcefully. So, when you tell this to your parents, trust me, they “get it.” And they certainly want you to have a great job and to be passionate about it.
I say, “Go for it, and good luck.” But, on behalf of baby-boomer parents everywhere, let me share some advice that's tougher to give, and even to receive.
Never forget that passion can be found in all sorts of jobs that you know nothing about. For every fast-food worker who you're sure hates his or her work, I can find you another who thinks this is the best job ever. My belief is that most jobs can be bigger than the people holding them—and by that definition, one can find passion by trying to figure out how to make this crummy-on-the-outside job a fantastic career choice.
The real problem, it seems to me, is when the quest for that passion-producing job becomes something that paralyzes you. You can never find the perfect job. Something is always wrong. It is never quite the thing you wanted.
It’s like having your own raincloud over your head, constantly. You just know the sun is shining over the next horizon, but you can never quite make the journey.
Instead, you fall into the trap of believing that those with passionate jobs were somehow selected, lottery-like. You begin to muddle through, hoping for that one person---maybe a gray-haired, career-adviser type---to select you for this one job.
Even Lady Gaga worked at her job. No one picked her off the subway platform and said, “I think I want to make you a star.”
G. L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, which operates LinkUp, one of the fastest-growing job search engines. His blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com.