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Joseph Okoh: Passion or Pay? Why Do You Work?



dreamstime_l_33901084“Follow your passion” might be the most common career advice ever given. In fact I’ve heard this saying many times (maybe you have too); “If you follow your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Meaning, if your job is one you derive joy in what you’re doing, you’re likely not going to find it boring or draining as others (who probably earn more) would.

Your passion is something you have boundless enthusiasm for. In relation to jobs, I like to describe passion as what makes you quit that high paying job to do something else, which pays far less (not in all cases though).
Across the globe, there is the class of people who carry out their jobs with so much gusto, not minding negligible pay and the class who are never motivated doing their jobs, they just hang on for the pay check at the end of the month because obviously, bills have to be paid.

There’s also the category of people whose jobs guarantees both – they make mad money for doing what they love. If you belong to this category congratulations, because surely you have the best of both worlds. It is something many people can only dream of. I like to think that the people who belong to this category in Nigeria are in the minority. I’d call them the ‘fortunate few.’

I know a good number of Nigerians doing so much at their workplace for very little rewards. While some may be industrious, they lack passion for their jobs. One thing I’m quite sure of is that very many Nigerians don’t exactly love their jobs.

Here’s my proof: A typical conversation between two Nigerians;
Mrs Dayo: Good morning Mr Okafor, how are you doing?
Mr Okafor: Morning, I’m fine.
Mrs Dayo: How’s your family?
Mr Okafor: We thank God (meaning, they’re okay).
Mrs Dayo: And work?
Mr Okafor: We’re managing.

Make no mistake, Nigerians are super ‘managers’; so, never take “we’re managing” lightly. Many Nigerians have been managing their jobs for decades without quitting and you can’t blame them much; there are no jobs.
Need I remind you of the staggering number of unemployed citizens out there who keep uttering curses on the government every day due to frustration? So it is a case of half a loaf is better than none.

What really is your drive for working? What gets you out of bed on a Monday morning? Genuine passion for your job or an income which guarantees you smile to the bank every month?

A few years ago I was in dilemma. I was about to apply for my masters fresh from National Youth Service. Although I had a background in science, I seriously contemplated doing my master’s programme in a different discipline – broadcasting, which I had ventured into during my National Youth Service year and boy did I relish it! I discovered a new side of me.

I did radio presenting for a media outfit for months, a role which didn’t pay much (I was just having fun and serving my country).
Indeed I had a decision to make, whether to consolidate on my previous field which I still loved or take a detour and explore a whole new area.

Just to put this in perspective, besides the perks of doing radio or being on TV, generally media jobs don’t pay very well in Nigeria – especially when compared to my degree which had potentials of landing me jobs in the oil and gas sector. So the following thoughts kept popping in my head; “would I be making academic progression or would it be a stupid risk?”

But every time those thoughts came, I was comforted by the fact that I just wanted to do what would make me happy. I needed a second opinion so I sought advice from an experienced friend but what he said left me musing even some more. He was blunt enough to tell me that broadcasting jobs are barely sustainable and that when the chips are down, I’d realise how difficult it would be to settle my bills especially when I have a family.

I ended up completing the master’s programme in my original field but later underwent series of trainings in broadcasting and that’s the industry I work in now. But if a United Nations job comes calling with its fat salary package that triples what I currently earn, for a role that would literally bore me to death, would I jettison my media job? Erm…. Err….

I’d hold my thoughts, let’s hear yours. Which comes first for you, passion or pay?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Joseph Amaechi Okoh is a realist and a student of life. With the believe that man is always in the process of self-discovery, he never shies away from trying new things. He is a qualified soil scientist, event moderator and broadcast journalist who is passionate about the environment. He enjoys writing and traveling. He tweets @joe_okoh1


  1. Dee

    July 9, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    I would take the mouth watering offer, as long as it’s not a job that would bore me to death. I should have an interest in that field tho,bills gotta be paid and I have responsibilities.
    What if you landed that job you are passionate about in a non-motivating office environment, e.g a horrible boss or supervisor who stifles your growth and exposure etc. Either ways you can’t eat your cake and have it.

    • Doyinsola

      July 10, 2016 at 3:56 am

      Gbam!..this is so surreal!

  2. Nammy

    July 9, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Pay comes first. The general idea is that you do the boring but well paying job, save up and follow ur dream but a lot of people never get there.

  3. TeeS

    July 9, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Passion doesn’t pay my school loans
    Neither does it pay my rent or electricity bills
    Passion will come after the pay has been sufficient to follow my passion without my bills knocking at the door??
    Am I making sense ?

  4. Tolulope

    July 9, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Some slogans can’t be applicable in Nigeria, where meeting your basic needs become a struggle even while you have a job. You’ll tend to understand that working for money supersedes working for passion when responsibilities beckon uninvited. So I’ll advice you work for money while you live your passion.

  5. Exotique

    July 9, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I was fortunate to have a first job that I was passionate about and also paid good money. I relished every moment of it. Now, my job is neither boring nor interesting. And the pay is not high. I wish it was just about passion or pay. There are other factors to consider though. Work environment. Opportunities for growth. Learning and Development. If it comes down to passion and pay, I will take pay. I can do passion in my spare time. Plus the pay can even fund the passion.

  6. jude arianor

    July 9, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    This is why a lot of nigerians are so poor because they are afraid to take risk, let me take linda ikeji as an example, she is a bloger right? And today she is very successful in her field, in fact she own a house in banana island that cost over N700 million naira and. A lot of exotic cars, But let shock you, there are a lot of blogers out there who are not successful because they are not passionate about bloging, cuz they just want the immediate benefit, just think about musicians, footballers, and all kind of sporting and creative activities, a lot of them are cruizing on private jets, so think about what you love doing and develop your self in that direction. Just try it you will thank me later.

    • Teetee

      July 10, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      My friend,Linda was just lucky. She didn’t do any extra ordinary thing abeg

  7. Honestina

    July 9, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    when it comes to work, I’ve got only one philosophy; Do What You Love Or Love What You DO.
    my job isn’t one I planned on doing fortunately it wasn’t on the list of my least favourite jobs( Nursing tops that list).
    its not my passion but I treat it with all seriousness cos at the end of the month, I want to be able to spend my money in good conscience.
    I don’t love my job but I don’t hate it either.

  8. Nunulicious

    July 9, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    People say I’m very good at what I do and that my passion for it is clear and without question. Sigh. When will this passion make me super wealthy? Not that I’m poor oh. But it would be nice to be super wealthy while at it. Lol.

    Babe God oh, pick up my call. Hehehehehehe.

  9. Zee

    July 9, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    What makes me jump out of bed at 5 on Monday morning? Bills!

    • Doyinsola

      July 10, 2016 at 3:57 am

      Some of us even jump off the bed 30mins

  10. Naked

    July 10, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Passion koo, passion of the Christ nii. Na passion go fuel my generator.

  11. Zola

    July 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Hmmm….. reading this just made me rethink my life. I am actually not happy at where I currently work. My job role is marketing and the pressure isn’t something to talk about. I am passionate about a career in HR. Please I have an Msc in HR from Coventry business school. Please HR professionals in the house help me . Thanks

  12. Jules

    July 11, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    @Zola I really do understand how you feel, My job role is also Marketing (which I thought I had passion for) But the pressure just make me think about my life and cry myself to sleep.. Hope you get your dream job soon.

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