The Trouble With Passion #597

February 18, 2022

Choosing a career path is a big decision. In the modern western world a career is practically synonymous with identity: whether we like it our not, what we do is a big part of who we are. And we are told to choose a career carefully, to find and follow our passion. But what is passion in this context? And why should we follow it? Does following passion into a career path leave us happier? Leave us on more sturdy footing in our life and career? Who gets ahead and who gets left behind when we all chase passion to the exclusion of other considerations? We talk with University of Michigan Sociology Associate Professor Erin Cech about her research and her book "The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality" to better understand why and how passion has become the primary decision-making point in chosing our career paths, and where that choice can lead us - individually and collectively - astray.


  • Erin Cech

Guest Bios

Erin Cech

Dr. Erin Cech is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Mechanical Engineering (by courtesy) at the University of Michigan. Previously, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University and was on faculty at Rice University. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology in 2011 from UC San Diego and undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Sociology from Montana State University. Her research examines cultural mechanisms of inequality reproduction, especially through seemingly innocuous cultural beliefs and practices. Her research has appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science Advances, and the American Sociological Review. Her first book, "The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality" was published in Fall 2021 and her co-authored book with Mary Blair-Loy, "Misconceiving Merit: Paradoxes of Excellence and Devotion in Academic Science and Engineering" is out in 2022. Her research is funded by multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and has been covered by The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Time, and Harvard Business Review. In 2020, she was named one of Business Equality Magazine’s "40 LGBTQ+ Leaders Under 40".

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