The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What can every aspiring entrepreneur do before college graduation to be more successful?” is written by Jodi Goldstein, managing director of Harvard Innovation Labs.
It’s that time of year again where thousands of politicians, executives, academics, entrepreneurs, and celebrities give commencement addresses to college students around the world. Despite the deeply encouraging and inspiring nature of many of these speeches, graduates are too often dismissive of commencement speakers’ most common piece of advice: Follow your passion.
When I speak with recent graduates, they usually have one of two reasons for not trying to follow their passion. First, they might have a lot of interests, but none that rise above the rest. Even if they are passionate about something, they feel like following their heart isn’t practical, particularly if their passion is in a field that’s hard to make a living in.
Despite these challenges, I believe that now more than ever, following your passion is not an option, but a requirement for finding success in work and life.
Simply developing an adequate skill set will not get you very far in 2017 and beyond. Robots are increasingly displacing manufacturing jobs, and artificial intelligence is being used to perform everything from legal services to financial, copywriting, and software engineering jobs. Then there are gig marketplaces like Fiverr that have given rise to increased competition for many types of jobs, driving down hourly rates for people around the world.
The only way to succeed in an economy where technology is rapidly displacing a vast number of white and blue-collar jobs, and the competition for existing jobs is only increasing, is to be driven by your passion. When you’re working in a field that you love, your desire to succeed will motivate you to find a productive way to contribute to the industry, regardless of how the field evolves over time.
For recent graduates who are interested in discovering what they’re passionate about, and finding a way to work in a field that truly interests them, here are a few suggestions:
Push yourself out of your comfort zone every single week
There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what you’re passionate about when you graduate. But not knowing isn’t an excuse for being lazy about trying to find out and settling for a career that you don’t particularly like.
At a basic level, focus on trying one new activity every single week. If you’ve taken a job to pay the bills, volunteer on nights and weekends in industries that you think you might be interested in, even if it’s not something that you studied in school.
Prioritize your passion over peer approval
In some cases, your friends and family might dissuade you from pursuing your passion if it’s in a field that’s hard to find work in. Even if the people close to you are supportive, you could face situations where a skilled recruiter convinces you to take a job that you don’t necessarily want.
A critical component of prioritizing your passion is learning to make decisions based on your internal motivation, rather than peer approval. If you know what you’re passionate about, don’t agree to take a job just because it pays well, or because you want to impresses your friends and family.
In the short term, you might have to take some work that you don’t enjoy to make enough money for your rent or student debt. Even in these cases, focus on dedicating as much time as you possibly can to finding a productive way to work in the field that you’re truly interested in.
Understand that ambiguity is a constant in life
Prioritizing your passion might make you uncomfortable in cases where you’re forgoing what many perceive as a stable career path.
When you feel uneasy about taking a risk to pursue your passion, remember that ambiguity is a constant in life, no matter which career path you choose. Regardless of how in-demand certain skill-sets are today, technological advances or shifts in consumer demand can quickly render them irrelevant.
If you’re working in a field that you truly enjoy, being comfortable with ambiguity will be a whole lot easier. Over time, you might have to change jobs within that field, or learn a new skill-set to stay relevant. Still, you can take comfort in knowing that you’ll always be focused on solving a problem that you care about deeply.