Money or Passion?
January 23, 2013 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Is it better to pursue a career that allows you to earn more money or further develop your passion?

I'm having a really difficult time figuring out the answer to this question, so that's why I'm turning to the green.

I recently graduated from university with a degree in Speech Communication and feel very torn about which area of interest to pursue, especially since the two areas that I'm considering don't overlap.

The two areas of interest are public relations/crisis management and insurance.

I'm much more passionate about PR/Crisis Management rather than insurance.

But, i'm having a difficult time deciding between the two areas because...
-I have over two years (going on three years) of experience in the insurance industry which means that I'll earn more money in this area rather than public relations. It also seems like there are more jobs in the insurance industry which means that my chances of getting employed are better than if I were to pursue PR as a career.

-On the other hand, PR/crisis communication is where my heart lies. It's something that I'm so incredibly passionate about and would enjoy the opportunity of learning more about this area. There are two problems with this area for me though: 1) it's very difficult to secure a job in PR while living in Canada and 2) I'm naturally a socially anxious person and struggle with public speaking.

So, with that being said, how do I decide between a career in PR/crisis communication or the insurance industry? Should I consider pursuing a career that would allow me to earn more money or a career that would allow me to further develop my education and passion in PR/crisis communication?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The purpose of a career is to make money. Passion is orthogonal.

This whole notion is ridiculous in my mind. Your "passion" should be your spouse or significant other, if you have one, right? Nobody thinks you should accept being broke all the time because you don't go to work so you can spend more time with your spouse, do they? No, you have a job for earning money, and then you go home to your spouse/passion after work. Why would you change this and give up the potential earnings for something you (realistically, almost certainly) care about less than your spouse?

What does "passion" mean to you? And I'm seriously thinking of a Romeo and Juliet context? Would you kill for this, die for it? would,you even do it for free? If not, go back and reconsider what you mean by "passion".
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:24 PM on January 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Following your passion, you'll put more time and energy into your job, develop your skills more rapidly, and will at some point become much more valuable than you would be following a path for the money. Also, pursuing your particular passion, you won't have to be unpaid while you build skill, you can learn and improve on someone else's dime.

You'll also be more fulfilled all along the way- passion, without a doubt!
posted by Holidayalltheway at 9:25 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's not like your passion is becoming a professional athlete or supermodel or something.

Somebody's got to make a living in PR/Crisis Management, and if you're passionate about it, it might as well be you. Hell, there are people who are really passionate about film or fashion or music who are going into PR for the very reason you're thinking of going into insurance.

If I were you, I'd do whatever you can do to get your foot in the door following your passion, but keep doing whatever it takes to pay the rent. Even if that means a job in insurance in the mean time. There's a strong chance your drive will help you start a career in the field that most interests you, but if not, insurance isn't going anywhere.

Don't neglect to follow through on your passions because it might be difficult, or because there aren't as many jobs, or because you have a couple years more experience in a different area. That's just silly.
posted by Sara C. at 9:27 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

As someone who has been on both sides in the past few years, I wholeheartedly recommend doing something you're passionate about.

Even though my earning potential is probably (although maybe not) lower, I find I am happier and much naturally better at my job now that I'm doing something I really want to be doing and find meaningful. It makes pretty basic sense, actually...
posted by rollbiz at 9:45 PM on January 23, 2013

You're young. It's not like you're going to be earning $100k in the next job you get. This is absolutely the time you follow passion.

There are very few things in my life I have any regrets over, but following the money instead of my interests earlier in life is certainly one of them. I made it work, but it took a long time to do so. Trust me, when you're 40 years old and you realize that while you may not hate what you do it offers you zero fulfillment other than in your bank account you'll kick yourself every time you see someone doing the work you wish you were doing. And you may, like many people, decide that you're going to chuck it all and follow that dream then - and it'll be incredibly hard to make that change then because you'll have to start from the beginning and earn your stripes.

I have a cautionary take directly related to this but instead of boring everyone I'll share it with you if you memail me.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:50 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but is there any reason you couldn't leverage your insurance experience into a PR job at an insurance or related company? Agencies and companies love when a person who has that kind of experience makes the jump.

Anyway, to passion, here's my note of caution to that. You may find that doing what you're passionate about as a 9-5, 40 hours a week, until you die job sucks. It may drain all the fun out of it. For example, being an artist and making things is great and fun. Being a graphic designer and doing the fifteenth revision because the client wants it to "pop" and "sizzle" and can't explain what that means but you have to do it or you can't go home, that sucks.

However, I worked a job where I was ludicrously overpaid--I would literally buy everything I could think of that I wanted when I got paid and go "Shit what do I do with all this extra money?"--and hated the company/job and I made it a year before I ran screaming to a job that paid way less but had a better environment and work I enjoyed more.

Get therapy or join Toastmasters or whatever you need to do to handle the public speaking thing, honestly, that'll be a skill you need whichever you pick.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:00 PM on January 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

According to Cal Newport, you should not worry about whether you are 'following your passion'. Instead you should direct your energies into developing skills that society values, and that you find interesting enough to do for a living. Passion may or may not be involved with this, but happiness will, as in time you will be able to leverage your valuable skills and experiences to gain the things you want for yourself, whether that is money, flexibility, influence, philanthropy, or whatever. He drew this conclusion by surveying self-identified happy people and looking for common patterns in the trajectories of their lives.

35 minute video, highly recommended -- this has been echoing in my mind for weeks after watching it and is really helping me through a career transition.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:13 PM on January 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm naturally a socially anxious person and struggle with public speaking.

I work in a field that has PR components. Social anxiety could be a hindrance for you. I'm not saying you can't overcome it. In fact, it could drive you to overprepare and thereby be viewed as consistently professional. But it is clear to me who the "naturals" are. I wouldn't recommend you choose a career where you're going to always have to work 20% harder than other people just to overcome your natural tendencies. What starts out as a welcome challenge in your 20s can come to feel like an effort you can't quite muster. You might find yourself saying "you know, this just isn't for me, I don't think I'm in the right place for myself" as you grow older.
posted by slidell at 11:27 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm naturally a socially anxious person and struggle with public speaking.

Is it your passion to overcome this?
posted by rhizome at 11:38 PM on January 23, 2013


If you're any good and at all lucky this will afford you passion later. And if not, the consolation prize is that you won't have had to go hungry or have been in budget hell your whole life.
posted by rr at 11:57 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seriously? Do insurance companies not have PR departments in Canada, or are you trying to talk about a specific type of PR, like celebrity PR person?

In the abstract, you should make sure that whichever career you pursue gives you enough money to not actively destroy the non-work areas of your life. If you can make enough money doing basketweaving to rent somewhere reasonable, have healthcare, and feed yourself and your eventual kids and spouse if planned, then ok, basketweave away. If you will starve pursuing basketweaving, it's a stupid plan and you should follow the money.
posted by jacalata at 12:01 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should do something you at least like because you will be spending a hell of a lot of your life doing it. You should also do something that you're good at because it will make your life a hell of a lot easier.
posted by heyjude at 12:05 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Re the public speaking and social anxiety thing, I have this to say.

If you look at that part of it and see an interesting challenge you'd like to learn to work around, great! Follow your passion into PR! Join Toastmasters or community theatre or something and discover that it's nothing to be afraid of. Win!

If you look at public speaking and see a big hole of badness, and you keep putting off doing things that will help you get over your fear of public speaking, and you keep talking about how you are going to do PR "someday" when this thing you have a mental block on magically goes away? This PR thing is not meant to be, and you're probably not as passionate about it as you think you are.

I spent four years of my career trying to convince myself that I was meant to be a scenic designer. Except that I kind of suck at drafting. And I'm not naturally a handy person. But I was going to take some continuing ed courses! And pick up some stagecraft skills! And learn by doing little labor of love type projects for free in my spare time! Except I never did any of that, because I actually don't enjoy it and have no natural gift for it. So I didn't become a scenic designer, and feel like those four years were wasted in a lot of ways.

Conversely, there are parts of my real passion that I find challenging and get nervous about. But I find that I don't put off picking up those skills, and I'm comfortable trying and failing and getting back on the horse until I improve.

There's a difference between broadening your horizons a little and trying to be somebody you're not.
posted by Sara C. at 12:20 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Be sure to consider all the ancillary tasks that go along with your passion job because those things can suck the enjoyment out of it. Of course it's hard to know what those things are beforehand.

I've followed two poorly paid passion jobs. The first was training horses for 15 years till I couldn't accept the compromises required to move up in my specific area. Now I'm poorly paid in architecture and find doing ywt another set of code research or bathroom fixture details tedious; yet, they do not compromise my ethics and I'm still motivated to go in every day (except for the occasional interactions with a "Little Napoleon" boss.
Working a passion that had too many negative trade-offs sucked all the passion out of a life-long love while working another passion has held fewer compromises and is still engrossing. Yet, I still wish for a job that offered some means of financial security. Had I gone that route I could have pursued my first passion as a hobby.
posted by mightshould at 2:39 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have over two years (going on three years) of experience in the insurance industry which means that I'll earn more money in this area rather than public relations.

Two years is surprisingly little in the scope of your entire career. It is better to throw two years away now, rather than ten years later on when you are completely burned out from doing something you don't like.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:03 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your passion sounds very monetizable. You should go for your passion.

If your passion were something a bit more obscure, and you didn't have any safety net, then maybe. But the fact that you worked at a job for a couple of years early in your career (in insurance) means nothing.

Go for your passion.
posted by 3491again at 3:08 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, with that being said, how do I decide between a career in PR/crisis communication or the insurance industry?

By applying to jobs in both and seeing what, if any, offers come up?
posted by DarlingBri at 4:00 AM on January 24, 2013

Your passion sounds very monetizable. You should go for your passion.

Seriously. It's not like your passion is ice sculpting or puppet shows.
posted by atrazine at 4:16 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I find the following two things important to happiness:

- a job that you reasonably like
- something you do regularly that you look forward to, that challenges you, and that you can gradually get better at

The latter does not have to be something you get paid to do. It's fine to have an off-hours passion.

Given your two options, I don't think you can make a bad choice here. And you're not locked in one path forever. I'll say this, though: the beginning of your career is the best time to lay a foundation for the rest of your career. You have the option of either making more money, and saving it so you have a little more freedom later, or building your skills, experience, and connections in a field you know you enjoy. Unless the former would net you buckets of money, the latter is a wiser investment.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:04 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Money will give you flexibility if your passion changes - as long as money does not equate to "month miserable hours you can't get out of". You are young, your passion may change to a spouse or a child in the future and then what you want is time and flexibility. (I mean, it might change to skateboarding for all I know but that can't voice things that make you feel guilty for working). So I say money, assuming that doesn't make you miserable and affords some flexibility.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:30 AM on January 24, 2013

There is no either/or. It's not like the PR job is volunteer, you'll be paid, right? So, you're working for money.
And there's this: working in PR would make you a much more interesting party guest than an insurance person. Good lord, my eyes rolled even as I typed that.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:14 AM on January 24, 2013

Speaking from personal experience, go with the money. Your "passion" can easily fizzle out when you're struggling to pay bills and what not.
posted by Anima Mundi at 6:19 AM on January 24, 2013

One thing I want to mention: You want to pay attention to where you are working as much as what you are doing. A toxic work environment (whether it's a bullying boss, backstabbing co-workers, an impossible work load or what have you), being seriously underpaid, or a punishing commute can suck all the passion out of a job you might otherwise really love. Lots of people think they need to change their career fields when they just need to get out of a particular toxic job.

When you go on interviews, take a damn good look at where you will be working and remember you are interviewing them as much as they are you.

That said, your passions seem to be ones that are easily monetized, as others have pointed out - you are not following your passion in a poorly-paid, competitive arts field. PR is something that will always be in demand, and so will insurance.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:28 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lots of good advice above, but I just wanted to say that you shouldn't let two years of experience direct your choices -- those two years will quickly be swamped by the experience you accrue in your new job, and it's the latter that you need to like long-term. I'm sure you can, as said before, leverage previous experience, but don't let it drag you into something that you then have to jettison entirely after 10 years, when you have much more invested but can't stand it anymore. As long as you reasonably like the work, you can do any job and have fun outside it, but if you don't really like it, make the change now. Plus, early in your life, you can afford a few years of lower pay while you catch up your experience, while later in life, your additional responsibilities may make that a less appealing risk.

Of course, you'll have to see where the jobs are when you start applying -- you only need one, really, so don't worry about the whole field. But if you don't find something in your first choice field after a reasonable interval, you're lucky to have a second field to explore...
posted by acm at 7:34 AM on January 24, 2013

You will burn out after spending years doing something you don't at least tolerate. Challenge your anxieties and go for PR. There's room to create your own brand and sell yourself, whereas in the insurance industry, there's a sort of ceiling that you won't break through unless you're really into insurance.
posted by theraflu at 7:44 AM on January 24, 2013

The two most miserable people I've ever known both had six figure incomes. One of them finally had a full-blown meltdown a couple years ago, and then quit her lucrative miserable job to become a yoga teacher. She is now one of the happiest people I know.

Everyone I've ever known who selected a career based primarily on how much money they would make doing it is unhappy. Literally every single one.

You're going to spend a lot of your life doing whatever you do for a living. Provided you can basically support yourself with it, choose to spend that time doing something you'll enjoy doing.
posted by ook at 8:44 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm as pragmatic as the next person about working for money. But, if all things are relatively equal (and your two years in Insurance is not a whole lot, so let's call it equal) then you should follow the career you think will be the most rewarding.

Now, I quit Corporate America to teach, and ran back two years later. My sister went to Hollywood to break into the biz and ended up as a Media Buyer. So not all dreams come true, but neither of us regrets giving it a try.

Now, let's not chase our tails forever. I also know someone who moved to Hollywood with the idea of writing. She spent 4 years in low-level admin jobs, beat her brains in trying to break in and never did.

She went home and went to law school. Now she's working as a lawyer.

So give it a try, you might have to start out in a support role, and work up, if so, do that. But be ready to admit if it becomes time to pull the plug.

In the meantime, develop other passions. I'm into cooking, writing and answering questions on AskMeFi.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:09 AM on January 24, 2013

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