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Career Advice: Pursue Passion or Proficiency?

Author’s note: Road trips provide iSchool students with amazing opportunities and hands on learning experiences through networking. It’s an opportunity to absorb advice and knowledge from various companies and future potential employers. This road trip touched upon some of the most innovative and involved sports companies out there. Such as: NBA, MLB.com, Met Life Stadium, Steiner Sports, Red Bull Stadium and more.

Growing up, we heard “You can do anything you put your mind to,” and “Follow your dreams.” Meanwhile, we watch our favorite athletes compete in the Olympics, or rock stars perform to sold out crowds at Madison Square Garden.

I recently attended the iSchool Road Trip about technology in sports. Upon our various visits, employers shared helpful career advice and personal experiences of their working past. However, many iSchooler’s found that people did not feed us these same “follow your dreams” lines we heard growing up. These sayings and ideals that we may live by were quickly disputed.

Advice from employers

Employers told us to be more practical and choose a career path in which we had a skill or talent. We heard this advice at more than a few companies. It runs along the lines of, “do not follow your passion, but pursue what you’re good at.”

This was not only a shock to me, but my classmates as well. We were told from a young age that you can do anything you put your mind to. Hearing this advice be debunked from admirable people within industries, that many of us are interested in, made us question the beliefs and hopes we learned during childhood.

If everyone only pursued what they were good at, than doesn’t this make for unhappy employees? This advice was not only unsettling but confusing as well, as it is not something I whole heartedly agree with. I believe that in any career path you choose to go into, you should be happy with what you do.

I believe that in any career path you choose to go into, you should be happy with what you do.

Why this is a concern for Me

My worst fear is entering the workplace, starting off my career and dreading going to work every day. While work is not typically known as something fun or equivalent to having the same excitement of a Syracuse basketball game, it’s important something to enjoy it and put your heart into. If you are doing work you are good at, this doesn’t necessarily mean you are enjoying it or passionate about it.

Junior iSchool Student and Road Trip participant, Courtney Abrams, shared her opinions about this statement as well. “It’s important to follow your passion and align your skills with that passion. Talent is imperative, but at the end of the day you want to be working on something that makes you excited.”

My personal experience

After participating in my first real corporate internship this past summer, I quickly learned that as an intern, or an entry level worker, you start at the bottom of the totem pole. It takes time to work your way up. Unglamorous tasks are required for the business to run smoothly too. Although, this did help me learn a lot about the company and job itself along the way.

For example, I worked on building and designing an internal portfolio site for the group I was working in. Before I could start the site itself, I spent a few days researching and learning about the program and portfolio sites. The research isn’t all that exciting, but it was necessary to complete the site and shows how to create it. I had people surrounding me who I could ask for help and answer questions along the way. No matter how big or small your job is, as you attend work each and every day I feel that it is extremely important to enjoy the people around you, as well as the work place environment equally.

The overall Road Trip

Each place we visited during our road trip had its own story. The people who worked there provided us with individualized advice. Sophomore Dean Isaacson, a past road trip participant (an additional member on this trip) discusses his thoughts on road trips as whole: “The iSchool road trips provide me along with the rest of the students lucky enough to go on the trip the opportunity to experience different industries, companies, and work environments in a real world, first hand environment we would not get to experience otherwise.”

Following each day of the visits, we debriefed as a group about what was talked about. The post visit conversations were a range of likes and dislikes of the company’s physical environments, office space, employee vibes or impressions we got from the short time immersed in their culture. The advice we received from the various company visits prompted conversations and/or questions; specifically towards the discussion of following your passion or talents.

I talked with my classmates about the topic of passion vs talent extensively and thought about it on my own. I think that when it comes down this: It’s up to you. You choose whether or not to listen yourself or follow your own path. You go through life receiving advice from many people around you, it is up to you to pick and choose what you listen to.

In the end, I think your individual values and core beliefs should take precedent and help make important decisions about your future, rather than that guy you heard one time speak in a 200-person lecture hall.

Emily Kellman

Class of 2018, Information Management and Technology at the School of Information Studies, along with a Public Communications minor in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications as well as a Marketing minor in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Words I live by: "Don't let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game." - Babe Ruth

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