By: Jacob McCourt
“What are you passionate about?”
This was the simple question that I was asked this morning at my internship by Karen Plunkett, the CEO of the WEtech Alliance. Five unassuming words strung together that stopped me dead in my tracks. As Karen stood over me patiently waiting for answer (which took way too long to share), I couldn’t help but think what the purpose of the question was. She had a lesson to share: “…two Ps that are critical to success as an entrepreneur are passion and persistence,” she said.
I think the difficulty of my answer (and difficulty in writing this) is mostly due to my current life state. As a soon-to-be University graduate, my plan come September has become a daily thought clouding my mind. Even though the job market is in an upswing, it still is very tough to find work. Adding to the pressure, Lisa Kahn, an economist at Yale University, indicated that the first years in the job market are the most important to signaling a career path to employers. Great.
Will I try and find a job with a local business? Work from a large multi-national corporation? Start my own business? All questions aside, Karen’s point really drives home the question I’ve been struggling with. Who I work for shouldn’t matter as much as what I am doing.
An article from the Atlantic summarized passion and persistence best when it said that it “…is not a luxury that needs to be jettisoned in tough economic times. It is the most essential force a person can bring to a challenging job market … not only because we tend to do our best when we’re passionate about what we’re doing, but also because passion is what inspires a person to keep pushing to find a way forward, no matter how tough the circumstances.“
Therefore, since I’m a person that is passionate about technology, video games, marketing and entrepreneurship, writing and video games, I should stop worrying as much about whom I work for. Whether it is at a big/small/my own company, I should really worry about finding work that allows me to turn my passion into a career.
I think Rita Mae Brown hammers the point away by reminding me ”…you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.”
At the same time, I need to be persistent. I will never forget a job interview I had about two years ago for what I thought was the perfect job. It was for an eight-month internship at a company in the video game space with a subsidiary in Mississauga. I was one of two candidates from my school (with more at different schools in the GTA) and had been given a phone interview with who would have become my direct superior.
The interview was very middling up until this question was asked: “can you give an example of a successful advertising/promotional campaign?” With limited preparation and having only one marketing course completed, my response was less-than-stellar: “I think it’s pretty cool when beer companies put hats in the beer cases.” This is not a joke; this is the answer I gave. This experience might have totally deterred me from ever interviewing for a job in the space again (I mean, my answer went over about as well as the nuclear disasters at Hiroshima and Nagasaki). But at the same time, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were my interview skills.
I am really glad Karen asked me the question this morning, so now I will throw it to you to reflect on. How important to you think passion and persistence are to your career?