passion vs money / women at work

Passion vs. money: What does Gen Z want?

. 7 min read . Written by Nruthya Johnson
Passion vs. money: What does Gen Z want?

Passion or money — that is the eternal debate. But which one would you choose?

You’ve probably heard parents, relatives, and other well-wishers argue for the ‘realistic option’ – the 9 to 5 job that brings with it a stable income and responsibilities. But every other TED talk or inspirational speech of a person who has ‘made it’ points to the other option — follow your dreams and you’ll succeed.

So, almost everyone who’s starting out in their career journey (and sometimes even later in their careers) comes to the big question — do I choose a career that I may or may not like but is promising for my future, or do I follow my passion with a slim chance of earning enough money from it?

For passion

‘Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ – that’s a cliche but somewhat true phrase. Choosing your passion means that there are no monotonous tasks for the day; everything is just as new and exciting as when you first started.

The more passionate you are, the more productive you are, and the work you do satisfies and motivates you to keep going.

While she took up a project or two while in school, it wasn’t until college that Ramya* took up every opportunity to monetise her passion for drawing. Apart from commissions, she also took on a few paid collaborations with brands for digital covers. Eventually, this passion turned into a full-time job as an illustrator for an ed-tech company and she continues to take on commissions when she has the time to. Despite all the deadlines and stress that comes with having a job, she found that she enjoyed working mainly because she was passionate about it.

Another argument for passion is the motivation to upskill. With a full-time corporate job, your days might be filled with long meetings and endless tasks that you may not always see the point of doing. You end up making the best of the skills that you do possess.

That in turn means that you might not always have the chance to explore or develop other skills that can guarantee you long-term success.

Jordhan, a Deck Officer in the merchant navy, loves sailing and his duties aboard his ship. Apart from his passion for sailing, he is also passionate about photography. Still quite new to monetising his photography skills, he took up a paid collaboration for a product shoot with a brand. Since then he has been approached by many other brands for paid photoshoots. He continues to experiment with new projects that help him broaden his horizons within the photography field. While he admits that he may never abandon his sailing job, he admits that with enough experience and opportunities, he will take up photography as a side hustle when he isn’t otherwise working. For him, at the end of the day, happiness is what’s most important.

For money

Apart from the obvious reason — money – working for a job with a higher salary brings financial freedom and stability. People with steady jobs also seem to gain more respect from others even though people following their passions are just as deserving of it.

We tend to assume that those who earn high salaries also do important work, and so, demand more respect.

On the flip side, your passion might not always pay all of your bills. At least that’s the experience Latif* has had so far. Passionate about producing and mixing music, he found that while his career as a DJ paid well, it wasn’t enough to support his family or lifestyle. While he does play gigs in addition to being the house DJ at a popular club, he also has to work a full-time job as a Digital Marketer and Designer.

And sometimes passions change, so what then? Do you stop doing what you’re currently doing and make a career switch every time your passion changes?

Although a literature student, Dhruv* found his interests within the music industry. Apart from paid gigs, he also works as a music teacher and gives vocal training to his students among other things to make a successful career in the music industry. However, he finds that there is no career ladder to climb within his field. For almost every other field, there is a clear path for growth, but with his current job, he  claims that it is not always easy to know what the final goal  or path is. But he also admits that he has been ‘lucky’ so far. “I’ve always felt like someone leads me into things, into new opportunities, at the right time, whenever I’m stuck. Those chances fall into my lap at the right time, but I make sure to seize them and work on them to become worthy of it.”

For Ann*, her clay jewellery business was just a way to earn a passive income while she pursued her higher education in graphic design. While she does occasionally take on commissions and other projects that include card making, graphic design for brands, and polymer clay jewellery making, she insists that this is only a source of income that she may not take up full-time in the future. For her, starting her career journey in graphic design is of a higher priority over her side hustles.

How is it different for men and women?

What is noticeable is that most women choose careers they can do from the comfort of their homes. From popular artists like Alicia Souza to thrift store owners, clay jewellery sellers, and home bakers, almost all of them choose careers that enable them to work remotely.

There might be a reason for this pattern: we assume women need to stay home.

It is so ingrained in us that our duties lie within the home and that if we do earn, our passion must not compromise our responsibilities at home. This may not always be the case, of course, but it is definitely something to ponder over.

For most men, the natural inclination is to pursue passions that involve exploring the outdoors. Whether it’s through travelling, vlogging, photography, DJing, or any other career choice, it involves a fair amount of getting out there as opposed to careers they can base from the comfort of their homes.

When asked if he preferred working remotely or travelling, Dhruv claimed that he would grab the first chance if ever this opportunity presented itself. “I love the convenience of getting money from wherever I live, but I’m a person who loves to move around, meet new people, get out there and explore.” Jordhan and Latif were not far away from a similar inclination. Latif supported this with the fact that he left India and moved to the UAE for better opportunities. “The music scene is just better in Dubai and for a DJ, what’s more important than that?

Among the women, Ann revealed that she would like to travel, experiment and learn new things if given a chance to help with her creative process. She was quick to add that however, there were limited opportunities for this. “Even if I do travel to experience new things for my projects, I might only do it once or twice. I would settle from learning online as well.” Ramya, on the other hand, clearly indicated that she had no intention of travelling beyond her city.

And that reveals another aspect. Certain jobs are specifically designed to be performed within closed spaces, whereas others are more flexible and open to new spaces.

Whether women and men consciously or subconsciously choose the first or the later can be debated.

The rise of small businesses and passion

It’s no lie that most ventures we see today took off during the pandemic-induced lockdown. With several people being laid off, areas locked down, and a rise in spare time, in general, most people took the leap to venture into their own small businesses and explore their passion within their own homes. The best part about these is that you don’t necessarily need a lot of funding, especially in the early stages. Nor is it hard to set up a simple Instagram account and start your e-business.

According to research, the number of side businesses, especially among the new generation, is on the rise.

Millennials and Gen Z are 188% more likely to start their own venture as compared to Boomers. In addition, they are 48% more likely to start a business simply because they are passionate about it. So, be it men or women, it might be the best time now to kickstart your side business or career you are passionate about.

Money is definitely an important tool, but is it important to chase it when you’re sacrificing your chance to do something you enjoy? There is no single answer to this question. It’s a personal preference; it’s your call. If you have a family to support, you might not always have the opportunity to chase your dreams.

At the end of the day, the choice lies with you – which of the two benefits you more. There is no right or wrong answer. What you choose to do is entirely up to you.

*Disclaimer: Some names have been changed to respect their anonymity.

**Disclaimer: This analysis is not comprehensive or conclusive. There are plenty of men and women who do not fit in within this analysis.

You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.