At one point or another in your career, you probably heard the old adage, “Follow your passion.” As someone who would describe herself as passionate about her chosen profession, I get it. But I’d like to suggest that the real intent behind that message has less to do with passion and more to do with a soft skill essential for happiness in your career (and, frankly, life): curiosity.
Curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something and a major career asset. By leading with curiosity, you’ll proactively explore areas that spark your interest (even if they’re outside your supposed “passion” area), develop new skills, and then integrate them into your professional toolkit.
Here are five reasons why leading with curiosity is better for your career than following your passion:
1. Curiosity opens you up.
If you only follow your passion, you’re cutting yourself off from anyone or anything that doesn’t fit into that box. By contrast, when you’re curious, you’re open. Open to exploring new ideas, experiences, and possibilities. Open to meeting new people, learning new things, and hearing new perspectives even (and especially) if they differ from your own. And it’s that openness—that curiosity—that fuels career growth and new opportunities.
2. Curiosity allows you to discover your passion (or passions).
When we speak about our passion, we tend to hone in on a single thing. And even then, many people are hard-pressed to identify a specific passion they can link to a career, especially early in their professional journeys. Leading with your curiosity exposes you to different roles and working environments, helping you discover what matters most to you. By taking the time to explore anything and everything that interests you, you’ll identify what you’re most passionate about, even if that’s multiple things.
3. Your passion can change over time.
Rare is the person who has the same passion at 50 that they had at 20. Early in your career, you may feel that you must pick a passion and stay on that track. But at some point, your interests and what you thought you loved to do will change. As you evolve, so do your passions.
4. Passion doesn’t always equal proficiency.
The truth is that being passionate about something isn’t enough to build your career. For success, you need proficiency. For instance, you can be passionate about singing, but all the passion in the world won’t give you perfect pitch. However, if you allow your curiosity to take the lead, you may find a way to combine your passion with your inherent gifts to build a career.
5. Curiosity transcends passion.
As its name suggests, career passion is rooted in intense enthusiasm and excitement for what you do. And let’s be honest: even the most passionate among us don’t feel that way every day. Passion can wane over time, making you feel stuck and unmotivated; curiosity picks up where passion leaves off, allowing you to follow new interests to reignite your spark.
Remember: rather than follow your passion, lead with curiosity.
This article is part of a multi-week series covering the range of soft skills and how to cultivate and apply them to your career. Be sure to check out my earlier articles on empathy, persuasion, connecting with others, listening, communication, creativity, collaboration, adaptability, time management, and awareness.