Should You Follow Your Passion or the Money?

When it comes to choosing your future career, should you be practical or follow your passion? We’re giving you 5 considerations to help you decide.

Updated 05 Sep 2021

Should You Follow Your Passion or the Money? - Feature-Image

They say, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

But as a student, what happens if your interests lie somewhere off the beaten path — like becoming a musician as opposed to a banker? Should you follow your dreams, even at the risk of financial jeopardy? Or should you bite the bullet and spend the next 8 years of your life dragging your feet to work, holed up in a cubicle contemplating your alternate life as an international rockstar?

If you can’t decide between choosing the practical path in life versus one that you’re passionate about, don’t worry. Here are 5 considerations to help you get the best of both worlds.

#1. Explore your interests

Choosing a career path - 1 Explore your interests

Are you a jack of all trades, a man of many passions or just very confused about your calling in life? If you can’t narrow down your interests, start by taking a personality test to zero in on your dominant traits. Personality tests can provide a clearer picture of your strengths and ideal work environment, ultimately revealing a career path that you might never even have considered.

If you’re fresh out of SPM and contemplating your next step, your exam results are also a great point of reference to help you determine the kind of careers you might excel in. With a little extra cash in hand (and convincing mum and dad), you could take some time off to actively discover your interests through travel, dabbling in a part-time job or trying out some of these awesome online courses to see what sparks your interest.


Not sure what kind of courses and careers there are out there in the job market? Check out our comprehensive list of courses and you might find something you like!

#2. Follow your heart

Choosing a career path - 2 Follow your heart

Life is tough enough as it is, and having to wake up every morning for the rest of your life working in a job you hate will simply add salt to an ever-inflamed wound. If you have the means to do what you love and your parents are on board, we say, go for it!

But don’t be blindsided — base your decisions on practical considerations. If you are looking to pursue an untraditional profession (e.g. becoming a social media influencer), do your homework and find out about the possible career pathways and what you have to do to get there.

For example, if you have a knack for makeup but mum and dad aren’t convinced filming YouTube tutorials will get you anywhere, you could enrol in a professional makeup course to hone the skills you’ll need before stepping into the industry. To boot, many of these courses may also expose you to other subjects that are relevant to the field, such as Introduction to Business Studies, which may come in useful once you are managing your own business.

Your venture may not take off immediately, so don’t expect to reach insta-famous levels of success overnight! However, with enough drive and resilience, it is possible for your project to flourish. With the rise of social media, it has never been easier to start a business and market it, so if you’re willing to put in the work, don’t shy from taking the road less travelled.


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#3. Pursue a traditional career first

Choosing a career path - 3 Pursue a traditional career first

If your parents aren’t so flexible about your future career options (and are paying for your tertiary education!), you could get your degree and pursue a traditional career path first before pursuing your passion. This way, you can still build your savings and pay off your loans before making your dream job a reality — albeit, a little later in life.

It might sound preposterous to spend 3 to 4 years pursuing a degree just to end up doing something completely unrelated, but security is key. After all, building a nest egg first can be a good safety net in case you need to live off your savings when you decide to take the leap to pursue your passion later on in life.

Established pathways such as law, psychology and business will equip you with a diverse skill set and arm you with a career pathway to fall back on as your dream job takes off. A real-life example is the success story of our very own Yunalis Zarai, better known as Yuna, who famously traded in her law degree for a full-time job as an international musician. 

#4. Pursue your passion on the side

Choosing a career path - 4 Pursue your passion on the side

“I love the theatre, but Shakespeare isn’t going to pay my bills.”

Fair enough. If you foresee adulthood slapping you with way too many obligations to allow you the luxury of chasing a hobby, do both!

Got a profound love for visual art or calligraphy? You could attend workshops or plan “art jams” with your friends over the weekend. Obsessed with conspiracy theories or deliberating social issues with your best mates? Take the leap and start your own podcast. Harbouring a long-time dream of becoming the next Jon Bon Jovi? Round up a couple of your mates, start a band and jam on the weekends!

If this sounds too good to be true, take cue from Fuad Alhabshi — electronic engineering graduate turned asset manager by day, rock god and feisty frontman of our local band, Kyoto Protocol, by night.

Caution — if you’re going to make this arrangement work, you’ll also need to manage your time wisely so that you can juggle your work responsibilities while honing your craft after working hours.

#5. Ditch the dream

Choosing a career path - 5 Ditch the dream

Yes, we know, an unpopular opinion but we’ll willingly play bad cop if it means dishing out some practical advice.

According to author Cal Newport, the idea that job satisfaction comes with doing what you’re passionate about is a myth. In fact, it might have the opposite effect — constantly being on the hunt for the “perfect career” might cause you to become “hyper-aware” of what you don’t like about every job you do.

Instead of spending months (or even years) scoping out your passion or jumping between jobs to find one that fits your personality, use the time to build your career capital — or honing a unique set of skills that can be marketed in a variety of different industries.

Having solid career capital will grant you autonomy over your future career choice, competence in your chosen field and allow you to foster meaningful connections with others due to a satisfying work-life balance — the three values that have been proven to lead to job satisfaction.

In short, there isn’t just one way to achieve your ultimate #lifegoals. The opportunity to create the life you want lies in your hands — whether you choose to pursue your passion full-time or sneak it outside your regular 9 to 5 workday. In the meantime, consider your options, remain open to advice (even if it is with a pinch of salt) and choose wisely.

Keen to know what jobs are hot in the market? Here are 10 of Malaysia’s most in-demand jobs.

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    Kamini Senthilathiban

    Kamini Senthilathiban

    Self-proclaimed pun-meister 6000. Kant stop, won't stop.