4 Ways Millennials Can Avoid Following Their Passion


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Lauren Friese, director of Workforce Innovation at RBC, suggests that many millennials need to rethink their career management strategies to achieve professional success.

Friese rejects the “follow your passion” advice that was popularized in the 90’s. Instead, she says that young professionals should focus on the moments when they believe they have been at their best. By reflecting on their strengths, and examples of positive behaviors that they have exhibited, they can frame their careers around their peak performance. Friese describes it as “following your flow.”

Some of the specific career management strategies that Friese offered at the 71st CFA Institute Annual Conference included:

  • Stay informed and up to date on things happening outside of your industry. This offers chances to bring innovative new ideas into your field, which most companies desperately want from their employees.
  • Don’t settle for just delivering the basic expectations of your job. Maintain a high quality of work, but also take on side projects, raise your hand for stretch assignments, and explore opportunities to serve other parts of your organization. This echoes the importance of hustle, which Friese mentioned in her Career Conversation. Ultimately, your side projects might take you farther in your career than your primary role’s responsibilities.
  • Find mentors. Look for opportunities to engage people you respect and admire, either as formal or informal mentors. Don’t be shy about asking someone to be your mentor; there really isn’t a negative consequence beyond receiving a “no.” And frequently, a refusal isn’t a reflection on you personally.
  • Build a strong personal brand. Start by being clear about who you are and what strengths you possess; this requires a good amount of honest self-reflection. Once you have a sense of what your brand is, be consistent about presenting it. Find a wide variety of opportunities to engage in activities and work that fit with your brand. It’s equally important to take the time to deploy your brand virtually through your online presence.

These activities can all be ways for young professionals to explore new roles and responsibilities and find the ones that fit their flow the best.

Some may see the distinction between passion and flow as a matter of semantics — I confess, I tend toward this way of thinking. But Friese makes a strong point about the ways that “passion” can set millennials up for failure.

It’s a demographic that is already seen as undeservedly entitled, and the expectations gap between the ideal of following one’s passion (if it can even be identified in the early stages of a career) and the reality of opportunities available only reinforces that image of entitlement.

Following their passion can set millennials up to be disappointed with reality, but following their flow may help them avoid a lose-lose proposition.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

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