25 August 2015

Is "Do What You Love" Bad Career Advice?

I have a hard time believing that many students who are on the fence about going to law school for three years while running up six figure student loans, and then trying to establish a legal career are actually following the "American career ethos: Do what you love and the money will follow."

The people who are going to law school for economic reasons aren't doing it because they expect to love law, anymore than people are becoming dentists, or accountants, or copier repairmen because they are doing what they love.

This caveat aside, however, the blog does have a solid point, not that different from my frequently criticism of the way that the philosophy that "anybody can be President", or "everyone should go to college" is counterproductive:
The reality is that doing what we love is called a "hobby" or a "mission." Regarding the latter, for about 15 years, I rescued dogs and cats. I loved the satisfaction of helping the four-footers live a happy life. Money? It never followed. In fact, my little rescue operation was a cost center. 
In a complex marketplace for labor, it's downright nutty to send out the next generation to do what they love. Instead, those in society who care - parents, teachers, mental health professionals, and clergy - have to talk straight. They have to hammer that the world of work has become a Darwinian struggle. It is tough to get. It is tough to hold on to. And it's tough to trudge upward on the food chain. 
Reflection: Disney, et al. need to make non-Happy Valley films about the prince and princess who needed to get very smart about their career paths. When they took the wrong forks in the road, they almost wound up having nervous breakdowns. Happy endings came when they both signed up for low-cost training in web development and search engine optimization (SEO).
From Law and More.

I've imagined variations on that movie theme myself.  Even more importantly, I have seen those movies, not from Disney, of course, but from the popular culture of Japan and Korea (manga, anime and single season soap operas mostly).

In Japanese and Korean entertainment media it is a widely accepted and commonplace trope to portray the life of a working class person who takes his work seriously and isn't trying to climb the social ladder.  A cook trying to succeed in culinary school so he or she can have a restaurant.  An adolescent taking the reins of a family liquor store or dry cleaning business.  The travails of a secretary or office lady who only wants to do the job until marriage can make that career choice irrelevant.  A surfboard shop operator.  A low level gangster.  A kid in a vocational school.  A violin repairman and maker.  A mechanic.

In contrast, American media outlets are absolutely allergic to any scenario in which it appears that someone may have "settled."  This isn't a healthy way to raise our young people and is not a proper standard against which to evaluate our own lives.

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