Recently, I came across a book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.  In it, Cal Newport, Ph.D from Georgetown University, claims that following one’s passion might very well be terrible advice.

Instead, he feels that we need to leverage our skills, which will then lead to ultimate job satisfaction.  Starting with passion, he states, is a dangerous path.  What if we are passionate about something that leads to a dead-end career when we were meant for something much greater?

Steve Jobs Believed That Passion Is The Key To Satisfaction

Steve Jobs believed Apple was a company built by passion.

Steve Jobs believed Apple was a company built on passion.

On the other hand, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs incessantly felt that we needed to pursue our passions first and never settle.

In his famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, he stated, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better as the years roll on.”

Finding Balance Within Talent Communities

Who is right? I believe both are correct. Passion is having an inherent and all-consuming interest in something.  Skill is something that you either have a natural knack for or something you can learn/acquire after practice/training.  Can’t the two be intertwined?  I believe that the evidence can be found in the world of talent communities.  One clear example is GitHub.

Many developers have projects they are passionate about outside of the "day job".

Many developers have projects they are passionate about outside of their “day job”.

The developers on GitHub share not only passion for software development but also have some mad programming skills.  That passion may have led to acquiring great skills that can be leveraged into doing amazing things.  CNet posted an article about GitHub’s rise above traditional recruiting tools.

In the article, Will Young of Zappos Labs stated that “we love when developers see a need and just go ahead and code a solution to share with the community. We are looking for some amazing problem solvers on our team. This is hard to get from an interview or resume.”

What Does This Mean For Recruiters?

When recruiting, we have to look for people who take their passions and skills and leverage them above and beyond the standard 8-5.  My husband, for example, is a language technologies engineer.  He spends hours working on source code during his day-to-day; yet, in his spare time, he’s tinkering with electronic seismographs written in C++ and Java!

You need these kinds of people on your team.  You just have to really love what you do.  Whether it’s because you have solid skills that have been leveraged or if it was passion for some idea that led to career bliss, in the end, passion and skills can live together in perfect harmony.

Jenny Rhoten

Jenny Hayes Rhoten has been a leader in the technology and staffing industries for more than 10 years. She has a BA in Psychology from the University of Oklahoma and will be graduating with her MS in Organization Development from the University of San Francisco in 2013.

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