Do what you love, better than anyone else, and the money will follow

The saying “Do what you love, the money will follow” (Marsha Sinetar) would be more accurate if it instead stated, “Do what you love, better than anyone else and the money will follow”. There are many artists living hand to mouth and only one Picasso. Economics (and common sense) explains that prices or salaries will rise when demand increases. Demand, for our purposes, of certain skills or abilities will always be linked to supply. If there are many candidates available in the market for a particular job (supply) and the number of open positions (demand) is low then the employer can offer a lower salary as they have several candidates to choose from. When there are fewer candidates than there are jobs, the salary will rise. 

In brand and corporate strategy, there is another aspect that comes into play with supply and demand, barriers to entry. This term first coined by Bain and later brought to the mainstream by Porter refers to the difficulty face by new entrants/competitors to the market. As in corporate competition, the same applies in individual competition for jobs. The easier the job (or in some cases the easier the job is perceived to be by management) the more candidates will be considered suitable therefore a large supply and low salary.

USA Today printed a list of the 25 lowest paying jobs in the US. Careers in agriculture, baking (US$28K), beauticians, food service fill out the bottom of the list. However, also on the list are jobs like nursing (US$26K) which seems to me to be a bit unfair. Especially these days when nursing staff and health care professionals have been standing between us and the COVID virus. Of course, not all beauticians are created equal. The average beautician may only earn a relatively small salary because the overall supply of average beauticians is large. But the supply of "excellent" beauticians is decidedly smaller. Less supply = higher demand = higher price/salary.

There is value in all work but as we can see, there is not always a lot of money to be made if the role your son or daughter is interested in is one that is historically low paying. Do we tell our son that he should give up his dream of being a social worker and focus on becoming an architect (US$115K) or a dentist (US$97K)? I often tell my students that they will be working for a minimum of 40 years, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day so why choose something that doesn't excite you? The short answer? Our kids should not compromise if they do not have to. There are going to be many choices in their future and many times when they will have to choose the less desirable option due to family, money, life! Why force it so early in their career when there is still room to make mistakes?

I assume that most of you agree with me and want our kids to follow their dreams and pursue the careers that are most interesting for them. But, like me, I also assume that you want your kids to live a comfortable financial life as well. How can you have both when your daughter or son wants to be a baker?

This brings us back to the discussion of supply and demand and a simple solution. If the market salary for an average baker is too low then we need to prepare our kids to be above average. We owe it to our children to share the realities of life with them and prepare them to make an "educated" decision. We need to do more than just encourage them to follow their dreams and passions but also show them what is required in order for them to be successful in that career.  Joël Robuchon, who started as a pastry chef, was estimated to be worth about US$16,000,000 at the time of his death in 2018. He invested the time and effort to build his career and grow. He did not stop at the first restaurant he worked for but continued to learn and push himself. This is the attitude that will set your child apart from the median.

Talk with your kids, encourage them to follow their dreams and to go for the career that excites them but also share what you know (and what you can discover) about the challenges they will face and the hardships they will need to overcome. Don't settle for average.

The HeadhunterDad, AKA Lawrence Kieffer, is a professor of career studies at Temple University, Japan campus, the COO for Fidel Consulting an APAC Recruiting and Staffing firm focused on IT professionals, a devoted husband, and father of two amazing kids. Follow on TwitterLinkedin or Facebook.