Do you love what you do? That, say some career gurus, is the ultimate gauge of work satisfaction and what we should strive for. It’s an ideal situation, but not too common. As reported by Forbes, not even half of Americans (47 percent) said they were satisfied with their jobs in the fall of 2011.
The argument for seeking passion seems valid enough. After all, don’t we all deserve to have all the happiness we can get? And if we’re spending most of our waking hours at our jobs, passion makes it easier.
But: Could all this searching for the perfect-colored parachute be leading us in the wrong direction?
Yesterday I was having a career-related conversation with a family member who’s in quite a different life stage. I’ve been out of college for years (and struggling with the question of whether or not to get a graduate degree), and she (I’ll call her Melanie) is a college senior. I’ve had several jobs and done many internships, while she’s done — well, not too many. I did a lot of unpaid work in college in the name of gaining experience (paying your dues, anyone?), while she has shied away from non-lucrative opportunities. And while she can certainly relate to the angst of navigating those what-am-I-doing-with-my-life problems, she doesn’t relate to feeling torn about needing to struggle her way to her goals. In fact, she has little idea what her passion is, and even less does she figure it into the equation of day-to-day ideas.
While this may be a case of Gen Y and Gen Z disparity, there’s more to it than just differing generational ideologies going on here. Turns out, she’s taken the passion question and flipped it on its head.
“I’ve never, in my life, done something that I didn’t like doing,” Melanie says. “I figure, life is too short.”
Note that she didn’t say she doesn’t stick with something she doesn’t enjoy. She doesn’t even touch the grunt-work (which many call “opportunities”) with a 10-foot pole. Instead of working her way up to a passion-filled job, right now she’s just making sure she enjoys the process.
It’s too early to know if this mindset will serve her well, but her comment intrigued me. Sometimes we can get caught up in waiting for all the ducks to line up and all the stars to align. We’ve all been told we need to pay our dues, and we stay in far-from-desirable positions and places because we figure that short of finding our ultimate dream jobs, we need to be staying busy, working towards things that may or may not pay off down the road.
I’m beginning to think that my buckle-down approach isn’t working (did I mention I sat on a desire to move to New York City for five YEARS?), and I need to take a cue from my younger career-seeker. There is no perfect moment, and paying closer attention to not do things I don’t like might be one strategy to try if your search for a dream job has been leaving you feeling stuck. It’s easy to think that staying in a certain position won’t hinder you from finding your perfect fit – we do it all the time in matters beyond just the career search. (Ever hear someone say they’re dating “Mr. Right Now” while waiting for Mr. Right?)
But you have to wonder when you’ve reached the point where the safety of a job that you don’t like, and the extra energy you’re expending to stay afloat in a negative environment, may be paralyzing you from attaining what you really want. Maybe eliminating the things you just don’t like doing is a step in the right direction.