Key Tips For Your Career So That They Can't Ignore You In 2024

Ed Pintwala
January 10, 2024

Follow Your Passion OR Become A Craftsman? 

From my experience in recruiting, most (not all) new graduates these days do not approach their careers with a long-term, mission-driven career mindset.

It’s all about what promotion, salary increase, or job title I can attain within the next 6-12 months. I get many societal factors promote this, and we are now an instant gratification culture trying to keep up with the IG stories of a perfect life, directing our short attention spans on to ‘what can I achieve, in the shortest time, and with the least amount of effort’.

I know I’m stereotyping, but some of the best professionals I’ve come across never worried about these external status symbols, and instead focused on what they could learn, how it would make them better, and with whom they could learn from, and give their knowledge and skills back to. Those mission-driven career approaches seem to always pay off and win big in the long run. I also realize taking that approach takes extreme discipline, patience, and focus.

Cal Newport’s book ‘So Good they Can’t Ignore You’, did a great job at breaking this down, as he makes a strong argument against the classic ‘follow your passion’ theory when starting a career.

Instead, his approach is quite the opposite, and lays out four rules that will lead to loving your:

  1. Don’t concern yourself with passion.
    (passion is rare and be dangerous)
  2. Instead, improve your skills. 
    Which he calls building Career Capital by becoming a Craftsman
  3. Cash in your skills for autonomy.
    He argues that control over what you do, and how you do it, is one of the most powerful traits you can acquire when creating work you love
  4. Cash in your skills for the opportunity to change the world
    Think small, Act Big - to have a mission is to have a unifying focus for your career

He goes on to say that for some people - following your passion does work. However, it’s extremely rare and often dangerous for the majority of people to follow that advice and that advice alone. In rare cases, think professionals like athletes, musicians, artists, or essentially any young person who is so passionate about something from a young age, they do follow it and essentially become a gifted ‘craftsman’ from early on. They are lucky enough to be following their passion, and typically through extreme hard work, dedication, and focus, they rise to the top of their field.

For most of us however, and many new grads, ‘what we want to be when we grow up’ is not obvious, and the best path is to work hard at something that you like enough, that you will become better at it, and hopefully so good, that you develop rare and valuable skills in your trade, (which he calls building career capital). In return, you are awarded autonomy in your job and your work then starts to make an impact on people and the world in a positive way. Which can then, in turn, create a feeling of passion for what you are doing.

In my case, with almost 15 years in the Recruiting field, I am still trying to become a craftsman:) I am passionate about the trade and feel fortunate that I kind of stumbled into this. As one of those many new grads, business degree in hand, but with no idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted something entrepreneurial, with some form of uncapped earnings potential tied to hard work and performance, and that had a positive impact on people's lives. Thankfully, and to the credit of working under two great mentors early in my career, I found my way into Recruiting. It was a tough start, took a lot of time, energy, hours, failures, and frustrations.

Lastly, I think it’s also worth pointing out the three disqualifiers Cal gives as reasons not to blindly try and apply the becoming a Craftsman mindset when:

  1. The job presents few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing skills that are rare and valuable
  2. The job focuses on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world
  3. The job forces you to work with people you dislike

For anyone still in ‘search’ mode, I’d recommend Cal’s book, and to get started at refining your craft, by thinking big but acting small, understanding that forming a mission can help guide a career that can become a passion over time with the right mix of patience and dedication.

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