The word passionate might be the second most common on LinkedIn (after “driven”). It seems that everyone is passionate about the work that they’re all doing. But if that was the case, why do we say things like “Happy Friday?” Why do so many people hate their jobs and want to change? Can you really be passionate about technical project management?
For certain professions, passion can be helpful, for others, passion is actually a drawback.
It’s hard to achieve success in certain job roles without passion. Those who are passionate about a subject at hand will go the extra mile, engage their beings, and stop at nothing to deliver. These roles can be varied such as product marketing for a type of fragrance of being an industry lobbyist for tighter digital privacy. If your passion for fragrances provides you with an encyclopedic knowledge and attention to scent that your competitors don’t have, you’re in good position to succeed. If you believe in your bones that privacy needs to be overhauled at a governmental level, you’re probably going to find more success than someone who is just going through the motions.
So before you start yelling that I’m saying that all jobs should be void of passion – please consider the examples provided. That being said, there clearly are different roles that benefit from an objective detachment – particularly when you’re working at a large multinational company. And this is why when working in a digital space I always favor enthusiasm over passion.
Digital is a demanding environment because while trends take off, businesses have natural inertia that prevent them from jumping fully into new opportunities. This is totally normal because most businesses do not make their money online, so protecting the core business while testing how digital fits into their mix is the priority. If you are passionate about digital you will be a great advocate but you will burn out quickly because you will be constantly frustrated in a number of ways.
First is the role of digital itself in budgets. Everyone agrees that brands need to move into digital but when budget constraints are put into place, digital is often the first that is cut or reduced. If you are relying on a large budget to execute a plan, you will be disappointed more often than you are pleasantly surprised.
As an extension of this reality, one of the biggest qualities that I look for in candidates is flexibility. Passion is by definition not flexible. Enthusiasm is. Passion means doing anything it takes to get what you want. Enthusiasm means being excited about whatever you are doing.
Then there is the need for reporting and accountability that can easily kill innovative digital concepts. When you create an innovative idea, we often want to be the owner of this idea. We nurture and pitch it and do what it takes to get it off the ground. But digital is only as effective as the business results it delivers. So you can have a great idea for Snapchat but if you can’t prove that this type of thing will work in business terms, you will not be able to convince others to take a risk. Being passionate about innovation can help you drive projects and creativity but it can also create a strong negative feeling if others are not willing to support your risk. Being enthusiastic means accepting that a project will evolve overtime and continuing to support it – even if the final version doesn’t resemble the original idea at all.
The last reason is that being addicted to tech does not make you passionate. Any candidate that starts off with saying they are passionate because they spend four hours a day on Instagram is not presenting themselves in a good light. Passion does not equal time spent. The reality is that we are addicted to things that we are not passionate about and we are passionate about things that we cannot really control. I’m passionate about Michigan football because that’s where I come from. This passion does me much more physical and emotional harm than good (especially over the past decade). But there are also moments of intense joy.
If you decide to pursue a career in art because you are passionate about art, you are following your passion. Most would argue that following your passion is what you should do if you have a passion. But so many people who follow their passions struggle to make ends meet. That’s the sacrifice you pay to follow your passion.
When you decide to develop your career based on what you are interested in, you are going to work in jobs that you like or don’t like, in sectors that you appreciate or don’t. So applying a word like “passion” to digital project manangement in a multinational company is just pure bullshit. And more than just bullshit, it’s also the completely wrong approach. Do not confuse enthusiasm and passion: you should not be passionate – you need a detached enthusiasm that enables the flexibility to succeed at your career, to be opportunistic, and to not confuse the trajectory of your professional life with the fulfillment of following your passion.