Working in your passion, or being passionate in your job. What’s the difference? Should we be striving to work in something that we’re passionate about, or should we keep passion as a hobby?
There’s been a lot of spotlighting on this very topic recently, with two distinct threads: Some say that it’s ok to not want to love your job. Others say that working in something you are passionate about means you’ll never truly ‘work.’ Food is so closely tied to so many of us, whether that’s through our upbringings, culture, environment, interests or hobbies, so the want and need to explore a career in food is prominent amongst a lot of people.
At Countertalk we receive messages from so many people at different stages in their careers wanting to gain a bit of an insight into what avenue they can explore in the world of food, and whether it could be something for them. We want to explore this topic. There’s no set answer, it’s different for everyone and the answer for you may well change at different times in your life. But it’s worth talking about.
Take it away Rav:
I think we need to be realistic here, working in your passion isn’t for everyone and nor does it have to be. That’s ok. I know people who would rather keep their passion as a hobby so they can switch off from their work. They see work as just for money, then they fully indulge in their passion for enjoyment only, using the money that they’ve earned. I’ve got friends who made the switch to work in their passion after working in jobs they didn’t like and, whilst they now enjoy it, they find it totally engulfing and now struggle to switch off.
In a recent podcast interview, Gary Vee says you should keep passions as they are: as passions. If we don’t have a passion outside of work we can’t switch off. Switching off allows us to be better in all aspects of our lives. If we start monetising our passions we then lose our essence and the thing that gives us our ‘pep.’ When your passion turns into work, there will more often than not be parts of it that you no longer enjoy. This could be invoicing for example, ordering, organising, marketing etc. All of that can turn your passion into a chore.
For me, I live and breathe what I do, I love what I do and it has me jumping out of bed in the morning excited to start the day, no day is the same and it always involves food and people and that fulfils me. That hasn’t always been the case though, and there are definitely days where I feel deflated, defeated and challenged even now. The difference is in acknowledging those feelings and setting clear boundaries when it comes to work, as it is so intertwined with my life.
When I was saving up to train as a pastry chef I would work front of house at events for wealthy business owners and entrepreneurs. It was quite fun and it was a great way to make some cash. I used to get chatting with some of the guests, and conversation would always veer into careers and work. I distinctly remember being told by one of the clients that going to work in my passion was a big mistake and that the two should always be kept separate. At times I’d think back to that conversation, particularly when I wanted to give it all up.
I’d find myself far removed from the dream of what I thought working in a kitchen would be. I thought that the dream of learning constantly and making beautiful things wasn’t in reality what I was doing. The reality meant organising the fridges over and over again. Making litres upon litres of creme anglais and ice cream bases only to then spend the rest of the day churning yesterdays bases. Lining and greasing hundreds of chocolate fondant moulds, tag-teaming the fondant bases with another chef and stacking trays of them on speed racks. Day labelling everything constantly. Cleaning constantly.
After a while I found my groove and I realised that seasonal restaurants were something I wanted to learn more about, and through time and learning experiences I started to really get what I wanted. Which I wouldn’t have known without those experiences – we’ve always got to take them as learnings right!? It doesn’t discount the monotonous, there is always something that isn’t fun but it’s necessary and it helps to build you in ways you might not recognise straight away.
It can be hard amongst friends and family when it comes to working in your passion. Particularly in the early stages where sacrifice is rife, low pay is the norm and long hours seem never ending. The doubtful looks and the words of pity can fuel your self-doubt, but they should be a driving force to work harder.
Coupled with this is the lack of understanding that sometimes working in your passion means you want to switch off on days off. You don’t want to make your friends birthday cake and you absolutely don’t want to cook a Sunday lunch because you love cooking – You want to sit down, because it’s your only Sunday off in a month! You might get asked, or friends assume it’s a given, that you’re making their wedding cake. When in actuality you just want to enjoy the damn wedding without thinking about the fact that it’s getting too warm in this tent for that buttercream to last.
When people come to me and ask advice about following their passions, and say that they’re considering a career change, I always say the same thing. GO FOR IT, but try it out first. You can absolutely dip your toe in without diving straight in, and that’s cool. It’s a great way to give it a go without fully commiting. And when that comes to working in food, I always suggest that you think of a role that you could see yourself in, then go and get some work experience, whether that’s one day a week for a month, or for evening shifts if it’s cheffing or FOH role for example. I then suggest you explore other avenues in a similar field as you might find that you enjoy a different part of it more. And then after that, if you like it, go for it!! And if you decide that in actuality it wasn’t for you, then that’s ok. It might not be for you right now but trying was a good exercise for you to figure out what you want.
All of these things are quite personal and there’s no fixed answer but the below might help:
“Cooking became something I had to do on a daily basis in a high pressured place. It meant that coming home I would often neglect to do the one thing I was passionate about for myself or my friends. I had to learn that it was important to reconnect with why I wanted to do this in the first place, finding time to cook a nice meal for myself at the end of a long week.”
“I find it hard to work on all of my personal stuff now because my work absorbs my passion, it’s tricky to find that balance. Then again I don’t think I could work in something i’m not deeply passionate about.”
“Giving up my job in accounting and becoming a chef has CHANGED MY LIFE. I love the social aspect, and I get to be creative at last. The hours are long and the environment can be hard, but when you’re all in it together and you see the customers’ faces it’s all worth it. Yeah, the money is different, but it’s so worth it as no amount of money makes up for unhappiness. Everyone should give it a try”
“It’s so difficult to find a way to switch off at the end of the day, and it means that I find my passion really stressful now. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever feel the same way about it if I’m honest, there was so much that I didn’t think about properly – working in a professional setting and being under pressure to deliver is such a different way of approaching it. It’s really changed things for me”
“I tried it, and I gave it up! I’m just someone who really minds about having a bit of money in my pocket. I realised that I’d rather work hard on something that I don’t care that much about then use my precious downtime to spend all my money on the stuff I love. It’s hard to think like that when I’m having a long, boring and frustrating day, but I remind myself that I really didn’t get on with the alternative”