Dear class of 2014,

No it’s not your parents. No it’s not a good paying career not is it a $150,000 college degree. It’s that little voice in the back of your head telling you to go for that corner coffee store dream you’ve been dreaming to own. It’s that desire to be the next Steve Jobs creating the next big thing. It’s called Passion.

Everyone has it. Chase that and not the dollar signs. The Dollar signs come afterwards I promise.

This is a bad advice.

Now that graduation is done, your 4 years of undergrad is over. Now what?

Don’t get me wrong I am huge at following my passions. However, that thought simply matured into a reality. So let this not discourage you. Read on.

First, do you really know what your passion is?  A lot of people don’t, and it set them back seven months.  We assume that we really know what our passions are upfront. Can you tell me just by thinking about it? The way it really works is that you have to get good at something, then you become passionate about it.

I’ve asked a few people who love what they do for a living, I found that in most cases their passion developed slowly, often over unexpected and complicated paths. It’s rare, for example, to find someone who loves their career before they’ve become very good at it — expertise generates many different engaging traits, such as respect, impact, autonomy — and the process of becoming good can be frustrating and take years.

Second, it may not be realistic to follow your passion. We tend to not consider the barriers.  Like,  what if your passion won’t pay? Or what if you don’t actually want to turn your hobby or passion into a full-time career? Or what if your passion leads you down a road that means you’ll actually make less of an impact?

Two reasons people keep trying to follow their passion

There are a couple of reasons people still think following a passion is the golden career ticket, even when it’s getting them nowhere.

One reason is that we hear this advice everywhere! We’re told this is the way that people succeed. “Just follow your passion and the dollars will follow, I said. But here’s the real truth :  Our culture celebrates dreamers who stick with it and overcome all odds. But that’s just a story, it’s not how the vast majority of people succeed or become passionate about their work.”

Another reason is that it makes us feel good but  It only feels good now. “People don’t like to put in the hard work upfront to become excellent and indispensable. They’d rather play around with things they love and just hope that the world rewards them for it.

So how do you find a job you love (at least most of the time)?

The real way to find a job you love

Set up a system. A system lets you focus with strategic tunnel vision on what you need to be focused on right now.

When you have a system for finding a dream job, you can stop trying to figure it all out in your head which has been my personal issue since forever. Instead, you can get specific about what you want, then go out and test your ideas. Find out what the job is really like.

Using a system can save you a lot of frustration and weeks, or even years, of effort. Which was a mistake I made five years ago. However, I know it’s not too late just yet.

Many people want to turn a hobby into a career, only to find out that the professionals in that category often spend more time on business development than doing their hobbies. Other people find their ‘passions’ are not realistic careers, but find similar or related careers that also support the lifestyle they want. Win-win.

Ready to ditch the passion-based job search and set up a career search system?

How to search for specific jobs you can be passionate about

Setting up a system is easy, and shouldn’t take much time at all. That’s because all your time should really be spent talking to people.

First, get extremely specific about what you want. And when you think you’ve gotten specific enough, dig even deeper.

I often hears goals like “I want to work with innovative, growing companies that add value by leveraging my unique management skills.”

What does that even mean? Do you know the actual job you want?

Start by spending a few minutes writing down 10 specific job titles that interest you. An important caveat is to not disqualify a job simply because it has a single aspect you don’t absolutely love. I’ve learned this from my mother.  Once you get “so good they can’t ignore you,” that one negative aspect can often be ignored.

For instance, an average financial adviser may not be able to negotiate a flexible schedule. However, Mary Jackman can take all the flex time she wants. So don’t be too picky at this step.

Second, choose one job title to pursue. Pick one and just go down the rabbit hole. You’ll learn 10 times more from picking one and executing than sitting in a room and trying to come up with your dream position on your own.

Finally, list 10 companies you’re interested in that have the exact job title you’re looking for, and schedule informational interviews with people actually doing the job you’re pursuing. It’s more effective to spend a few minutes writing some options, then go out and take people to coffee and test your ideas.

If you run into a dead-end or decide it’s not the career for you, you have nine other options to pursue. Don’t stop. Just like every other wish in your heart, you’ll know when you find it.