Should You Stay In A Job You’re Not Passionate About?

You glance at the clock – it’s 3 pm and you still have two hours of work left. You walk over to the biscuit jar and slowly munch your shortbread cream as you stare out the window wondering what freedom would feel like. You check the time again, then resist the urge to bang your head on the table as you realise only three minutes have passed.

If the above scenario sounds familiar, there’s a good chance your nine-to-five doesn’t exactly ignite a burning passion inside you. Now, in a time where there are countless podcasts, books and TED Talks about chasing your dreams, you’d be inclined to think that’s a bad thing. You’re meant to leap out of bed every morning, bursting with excitement about what the day will hold, right? Well, maybe… or maybe not.
Here in Australia, we have a strong culture of entrepreneurism, challenging the status quo and only doing work we’re passionate about. After all, we spend roughly a third of our lives working, so we may as well do something we enjoy.

But this hasn’t always been the case. Back in our parents’ day, work was seen as work – something you did to simply earn a living and survive. In some countries like Japan, this is still the case. Despite their career-oriented culture, the Japanese generally work for money, not passion. Often, their “ikigai” (the Japanese word for purpose, or reason to get out of bed in the morning) is something outside of what they do for work.

So, if you’re not passionate about your job, should you immediately throw in the towel and do something that aligns with your purpose?

Or should we be taking a leaf out of Japan’s book and seeking fulfilment outside of what we do for work? Of course, there’s no hard and fast answer to this. So, we spoke to a range of young professionals and found people who fit on both sides of the fence. Here’s what they had to say.

Yes, ditch the crappy job and do something you love

The general sentiment amongst people in this camp was that life is too short to waste your time doing work that makes you feel trapped and miserable. They suggested that in cutting ties with something that’s holding you back, you invite new, more fulfilling opportunities into your life.

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Danielle Libri Elias, founder of Amity Created, left behind her secure teaching job to follow her passion for tea.

“It wasn’t the best choice at the time financially, but the second I left and gave myself that space to grow, opportunities came my way,” she says. “If your day job isn’t your passion, if it doesn’t fulfil you and you have something else that your whole heart craves… then follow it.”

Self-employed social media manager Tanay Smith adds that some people just aren’t cut out to work for someone else, no matter how hard they try.

“Ever since I was 16 years old, I wanted to be free to travel and help others,” she says. “Working for someone else was a stepping stone, but I could just never fully embrace being employed.”

Not so fast…

Not a single person we interviewed suggested you should stay in a job you hate forever — because they’re not sadists. However, these pragmatic types did warn against leaving your nine-to-five in the spur of the moment, without a plan or backup funds.

If you don’t set the foundations of finance, network and skillset while you have an income, it won’t suddenly appear when your bills pile up.

“Yes, leave, but don’t leave yourself in a bind because you want to find your happy place,” says Alisha Vara, a doctor who moonlights as a writer. “Have a plan. Have money saved, a side job you like that can easily be a main job or a new job you love already lined up.”

Michael Puhle, Performance Coach and Executive Speaker at Words With Oz, points out that not everyone has what it takes to immediately turn their passion into a career, and many people find this out after they’ve already quit their secure job.

“It’s a rare individual indeed who has the desire, determination and will to throw it all away in pursuit of a passionate purpose,” he says. “If we all could we would. But the fact is, most cannot – not because of their abilities but because they simply don’t have discipline or stomach for it.”

He adds that if you don’t have the wherewithal to set the foundations of finance, network and skillset while you have an income, it will not suddenly appear when your bills begin to pile up.

“To be able to provide the world with our passionate purpose, we must first be able to provide for ourselves,” he says.

So, what do we make of all this? 

It’s clear from the responses on both sides that pursuing your life purpose is absolutely a worthwhile endeavour. However, rashly saying “Bye, Felicia” to your nine-to-five without a plan isn’t the only option, and for most people, it isn’t the right option. There’s no reason you can’t use the security of your day job as an opportunity to get your own passion project off the ground.

“There’s nothing wrong with being in another job that pays you but you’re not super passionate about while working away on your own dreams,” says Megna Murali, founder of Start Your Food Business. “All start-ups cost money and when it’s time to build your own dreams instead of someone else’s, you can work on yours and make it big.”

Feel like you genuinely don’t have time to work on your side hustle? See how the seven-hour rule can help you.

Emma Norris is a Sydney-based freelance writer and the owner of copywriting business, and lifestyle blog, When she’s not playing with words, she’s either doing pushups or stuffing her face with pizza. You can follow her on Instagram @emmajanenorris.