Home Thinking Aloud The Millennial’s Dilemma: Working For Money Or Working For Purpose?

The Millennial’s Dilemma: Working For Money Or Working For Purpose?


Today’s millennials are faced with no shortage of questions when it comes to what to do with their life. Work or college? Save or spend? Even the sarcastic suggestion that they have to choose between getting a mortgage, or continuing to enjoy their avocado toast and brunch is still doing the rounds in the media. However, one of the biggest quandaries facing millennials today is the question as to whether they should follow their passion and work for a ‘purpose’, or knuckle down and focus on working for that all-important pay packet.

The Question of a Generation.

This isn’t a question which has only ever affected millennials. Indeed, the idea that there is a key dichotomy between working for pleasure and passion and working solely for money has floated around for generations. However, it feels more pertinent for today’s work age generation than any that has gone before.

There are many reasons for this. High on the list is, of course, the fact that student debt has risen to astronomic new highs. Add to this the fact that buying a house feels like a far-off fantasy for a huge proportion of millennials, and the impending fact that jobs for life are few and far between nowadays, and the driving force behind this question becomes immediately clear. If you work for money, and yet still struggle to get your own home to settle down in, what’s stopping you from pursuing your passions instead?

In this article, we’re going to look at some of the pros and cons of each side of this coin. Naturally, you’re going to have to come to your own conclusions if you’re seeking a definitive answer for yourself, as it’s unlikely any exploration of this age-old question is going to reveal solid truths to pin yourself to. However, by looking at the upsides and downsides of working for love or money, we should be able to identify some key pointers that might help you make your mind up.

Working for Money: the pros.

For generations, the idea that there would be any downsides to working for money would have seemed laughable. After all, isn’t making money the main reason for working in the first place? For millennials, things are never going to be so black and white. The last few decades have seen the world of work change beyond recognition, and it requires a fresh approach to study just what the ups and downs of this lifestyle entail.

Of course, there are still plenty of plus points to working for money. The most obvious? It’s the fact that by working hard and hitting those big figures, you’ll be able to afford a more comfortable lifestyle with fewer worries. Want to hang out with your friends instead of writing your paper at college? The Internet is fulfilled with various websites that offer such services.  Want to buy a nice house? It’s within your reach with the right job with a workable salary. Need a better car? You might only need to save for a month in order to achieve it. Want to retire early, have a decent pension, and be able to afford foreign holidays? It’s impossible to deny that these are all solid perks of this side of the situation.

Working for Money: the cons.

And then, there are the negative points to consider. A recent study into the dying words and regrets of elderly people revealed a fascinating truth – that the number one regret was spending too much time at work, and not enough following dreams, travelling, or spending time with friends and family. Unfortunately, this is often the reality for those who work solely for chasing big salaries; it really does require dedication which might be materially fulfilling, but which leaves large holes in other aspects of your life.

On top of this, one must consider just how much money you need in order to afford the lifestyle you’re pursuing. One feature of wealthy individuals which is difficult to deny is the fact that, no matter how much they seem to make, they tend to spend their salaries to the full, and still require further funds. In order to maintain a particular lifestyle, often the demands you put on yourself are beyond what you may be capable of maintaining… and anxiety, depression, and exhaustion are not uncommon in city jobs with gruelling schedules.

Working for purpose: the pros.

Whether your idea of working for purpose involves setting up your own business, creating online shops in which you sell your handicrafts, running classes in particular skills, or pursuing your dreams in any other way, there’s little doubt about the fact that working for love, passion and purpose can be hugely rewarding. There’s an old saying that if you do what you love, you’ll never truly ‘work’ a day in your life… and there’s possibly a lot of truth in that.

Generally speaking, people who work for ‘purpose’ are those who have harboured dreams of what their life would be like, and set out to achieve those dreams and (hopefully) make enough money to get by as a result. We often immediately think of artists and writers when we consider those who do what they love for a living… but there are plenty of people out there whose passion is teaching at elementary school, help with essay writing or designing websites, and there’s no doubt about the fact that it must be wonderful to wake up each day looking forward to the working hours ahead. Personal fulfillment, achieving goals, and blending your hobbies, skills, and preferences with your profession must be a wonderful thing to do.

Working for purpose: the cons.

The main problem with working for purpose is that you aren’t putting financial fulfilment first. While there’s a real romanticism to this suggestion, passion doesn’t pay the bills, and is not necessarily the easiest route to getting a mortgage. A huge number of those following their professional dreams often find themselves caught in some kind of stasis in their home lives – they might not be able to get the living standards their money-chasing peers can achieve, nor may they be able to set up pensions and other safeguards for when retirement age eventually beckons.

There’s also the issue of ‘safety nets’ to consider. If you’re employed by a company, and are working essentially for money, the chances are you’ll have something to fall back on should your plans go awry. You’ll be protected by contract law, or will have a job agency watching your back. Working for purpose often denies millennials these things (and in countries where health insurance etc is required, lacking a professional position with perks can cause real trouble), and this can create anxiety about what the future may hold.

Passion Drives Success.

While we can look at a long list of upsides and downsides, it’s important to remember one key factor: passion and purpose is a key motivating force for success. If you’re working solely for money, and have no passion or enthusiasm for your job, it might be hard to drive yourself forwards, and achieve greater goals as a result. You need to have an injection of passion in order to reach out and get what you want from life… and whether that involves becoming the best essay writer in your city, touring the county with a collection of paintings to sell, getting that novel published, or gaining new qualifications in healthcare, teaching, or whatever your field may be, passion and purpose is the key to pushing yourself forwards.

Doing what you love may be hard work at first, but the fact that you love what you do is far more likely to see you succeed in the end. Sure, there may be hard days, weeks, months, and even years, but sticking at something and constantly pushing yourself harder rarely fails to yield results.

Finding a compromise.

Compromise really is key. There are plenty of people working in shops for money, or filing papers, selling stocks, and doing all kinds of cash-driven jobs, who then go home, pick up their guitar, and play concerts to enthusiastic crowds on the side. There’s no reason to drop your passions while working for money, and there’s also no reason to not inject passion into a job which you’re primarily doing for cash.

In fact, finding a healthy balance between doing what you have to do (because, for example, you need to pay the bills or hit a savings goal for a house deposit etc) and doing what you love to do often brings about real happiness. If you have a job which you don’t particular enjoy but which pays the bills, then finding a pet project or active hobby – which can also bring in some extra money – can be a key way of ensuring your day to day life becomes more enjoyable.

The Key to Fulfillment?

That’s essentially the key: do what you have to do. If you feel you were destined to be a writer, a teacher, a nurse, or any job which you want to do for a real purpose and passion, then ensure you firstly have something to fall back on, and that your lifestyle and needs fits your income. Inject that passion, and reach out for ever greater goals.

If you have to work for money, make sure that your work doesn’t take over every aspect of your life, and that money doesn’t become the only goal of your day to day existence. Find the passion in your day job, explore the purpose of what you’re doing, and enjoy the rewards that will bring.


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