If money wasn’t an issue, would you still do the work you are currently doing? If the answer is “no”, you should start looking for a new job.
I think it’s interesting that people would consider it unacceptable to marry and spend your entire life with someone you didn’t love. Yet, in our culture, these same people think it’s normal to spend your entire life doing a job you hate. Why is our work life so dysfunctional?
I’m in a fairly privileged position to comment on other people’s careers. First, I’m twenty: without debt, a mortgage or kids. Second, I’ve been lucky enough to find work I do love, and I’ve been even luckier in being able to earn a small income from it.
However, despite my fortunate position, I still see many people my age picking careers just for the money. This is before the pressures of children, debt and an expensive lifestyle force them to continue working jobs they hate. The criteria for choosing a career seems to be, “Well I don’t hate it, and it pays well.”
Can you imagine if this was the vows people said on their wedding? “Well, we don’t hate each other, and it’s better than nothing…” Not exactly the same statement as “to love and to cherish, ’till death do us part.”
Work, Death and Taxes?
Benjamin Franklin once said, “There is nothing certain in this world except death and taxes.” Should we have added “and disliking your job” to this short-list? Is work just one of life’s inevitabilities that 99% of the population needs to accept?
Perhaps a century ago, it might have been. But I think with the explosion of the internet, globalization and more information jobs, we might be one of the first generations of people who don’t need to accept life-draining work since the days when humans switched from the more relaxed hunter-gatherer lifestyle to the extra burden of agriculture.
Even if finding work that is both emotionally and financially satisfying can be difficult, I think there are many indications it might be getting easier:
- New Jobs. Many jobs of the jobs that exist today didn’t exist twenty years ago. Most probably didn’t exist two hundred years ago. This means more opportunities to find work you enjoy.
- Lowered Start-Up Costs. Even teenagers today can start a business. The web offers many opportunities for entrepreneurship by stripping the needs for huge capital investments to get started. Entrepreneurship may not be for everyone, but at least now, it can be available to a lot more people.
- Varied Work Environments. Technology is enabling people to work from home, work freelance and do jobs in ways that weren’t possible before.
- Access to Information. With access to the internet, you can research jobs and types of work you had never heard of before. I had never heard of anyone running a one-person, online company until a few years ago, now I know dozens of people who do exactly that.
Let’s Be Practical…
People need money to live. Even if you hate your job, I’d suspect that few people would have the power to quit immediately. It’s one thing for someone like me to give advice that you should work at what you love. It’s a completely different reality when you’re looking at bills and debt.
But, just because you can’t abandon your career, doesn’t mean you can’t make plans to change it. You can educate yourself in your spare time. Many business efforts can start as hobbies you do for free. Even within your chosen career you can look to make changes that will improve your work life.
The situation is even easier for young people and students who haven’t locked themselves into a lifestyle. This is the perfect time to experiment with different options to see what type of work satisfies you. I think with all the variety of work that has come into being in the last few decades, it seems stupid to lock yourself into one option early. How will you know that’s the best choice for you if you have only experienced one or two choices out of thousands?
Treat Work Like a Marriage
Here in North America, most people wouldn’t marry someone they didn’t love. I think the same attitude needs to form with regards to work. Don’t marry work you don’t love.
I think it’s fine to take jobs to pay the bills. But unless you can say, “I would do this, even if I didn’t get paid,” I don’t think you should be making a lifelong commitment. Your goals should always be aimed at either (A) exploring to find satisfying work, or (B) making that work a reality – even if it is difficult to reach.
Will some people be unable to find work they love? Definitely. But just because some people won’t find another person they want to share their life with, that doesn’t stop most people from trying.
I recently had a conversation where I mentioned I wouldn’t be working in the summer. I had meant I wouldn’t be getting a job, but this person thought I had meant I wasn’t going to continue the website. All of my associations with the word “work” had to do with jobs I have had in the past. As a result, I didn’t even think about what I do here as work.
There is a completely different quality to doing work you love. I suppose it is like the difference between being in a so-so relationship and one where you are completely committed. Although you can rationalize that it isn’t too bad, that the pay is decent, or even that the benefits are worthwhile, in the end, satisfaction is something you feel, not something you think about.
There was a time when people would marry out of convenience, tradition or social pressure. Here in Canada, I can say that time has definitely passed. I think maybe it’s time to reconsider our approach to work, and to avoid committing to careers that we only do for the money.