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Choosing Between Paycheck and Passion

By: Gina Messina

Whether you are looking for a new job, considering ways to advance in your current position, or are thinking about pivoting, paycheck and passion are likely top of mind. The two “Ps” can seem to be at odds with one another and choosing to prioritize your income or your passion is a difficult decision.

According to Dr. Andrea Goeglein, CEO of ServingSuccess, “It’s an age-old career dilemma that every generation has had to grapple with.” Sometimes our passion projects come with the paycheck we deserve; however, this decision is especially challenging when our passion and income goals don’t match. So how do you decide?

The answer: It depends. Your current job situation, home responsibilities, and career stage all need to be taken into consideration.

When to Prioritize Your Paycheck

Choosing meaningful work over your paycheck sounds like a good thing to do and is popular in larger conversations. However, that doesn’t mean it is the right thing for you.

“The truth is, it’s okay to follow the money,” says Goeglein. “Choosing a job with a higher paycheck and benefits is not the same as making a decision to sell your soul to an endeavor that sucks the breath out of your body.”

She explains that timing is critical to prioritizing your goals: “It’s a smart strategic decision for the point in your career when you need financial stability and growth. You will always be free to make other choices, including quitting, if the situation really has no additional redeeming features.”

Your Paycheck Can Support Your Passions

Prioritizing your income in your career can lead to significant opportunities overall. Earning what you deserve allows you to feel valued and in turn, achieve more. It also offers opportunity for continued learning and growth that will support you in advancing or pivoting in the future.

Goeglein explains, “If all you get is more money, but no opportunity, no learning, no potential, then following the money may permanently derail your career. Why? Because you will show such a lackluster interest in what you are doing, your contribution will not be noticed.”

The decision isn’t really about paycheck over passion, but instead, earning your worth so that you can achieve your personal and professional goals.

It is also important to consider what your job brings to your life. Burnout is inevitable, it happens to all of us. When you are struggling, take a step back and ask yourself “why?” Is it because of the work or perhaps you are not prioritizing yourself and your needs?

If your job provides you the financial means to pursue activities outside of work that you enjoy, are you making the time for them? If not, how can you make the time to bring more joy into your life? If you can’t find the time, then approaching your supervisor to discuss a shift in your schedule or more flexibility may be a good option.

Bringing Passion to Your Career

Jobs don’t create passion. We bring passion to our jobs by knowing ourselves and what we want to contribute. If you are no longer energized by your current role, take the time to dig deep and find out why. Know that leaving your job is always an option. Recognizing that you have choices reduces stress and allows for more clarity to resolve whatever the underlying issue is.

You can recharge your energy by making positive strides toward change whether that is a shift in your schedule, a change in role, or moving to a new organization. And while you are waiting for that change to happen, recognizing that your current job is a steppingstone toward your goals allows you to appreciate it more.
Gina Messina, Ph.D., M.B.A. is Associate Professor and Executive Director of the Institute for Women, Wellness & Work at Ursuline College. She is also an award winning author and certified leadership coach for women. Connect with her on her website, LinkedIn, and Instagram.