The answer I usually hear is “It’s…okay”.
What this may mean is: “It’s not what I really want to do but it pays decently and I have two kids to support which is enough to be grateful for in this economic crisis.”
Understood. And absolutely fair.
Still, the majority of people who come to me these days are looking for support in either finding a career they love or building their own business. Despite or because of their circumstances.
Whether or not this trend – to look for interesting, fulfilling work – is statistically on the rise, it is certainly on many people’s minds.
Why do you think this is? Do we have higher expectations of life today such that we think even work should be fun? Has the economic crisis and the lessons that emerged inspired us into taking work into our own hands and setting a better example? Is humanity getting smarter?
What I mean by the last question is that I believe our search for ‘work that we love’ may be a critical factor in building a better world and positively advancing us as a species.
Work makes the world go ‘round. Not because it is more important than other things but because it literally encompasses the actions that build our houses, grow our food, educate our children, and the myriads of other activities that make up our lives. Someone has to do them. We do them.
But for a long time, and in many instances still, work has been perceived as a necessary ‘evil’ until (and to make possible) the next weekend or vacation. Many societies have fallen into one of two extremes – those that encourage over-achievement and work-aholism at the expense of all else, and those that have shunned work altogether as the ‘thing’ that keeps us from living our ‘real lives’.
In both scenarios, people are then usually encouraged to pursue either the best paying jobs or the most monotonous but well protected ones.
Typical responses to this question may be:
“You can’t get everything you want in life”
“Is ‘what you want’ going to pay the bills?”
“What if I fail?”
As a result, many of us come to believe that we do not deserve to pursue work that we want – which usually means work that we like and are good at. Or that if we do, we are somehow more likely to fail at it than the other things we are okay at and have learned to like (or not) that pay the bills.
Does this make sense to you?
Why would we be more likely to fail at something that we naturally love and are good at?
The answer: we are not.
But we are often more afraid that we will, and this particular fear of failure often prevents us from even trying in the first place.
What would the world look like if more people did what they liked and were talented in? Would they be more inspired and innovative? Would they give better service? Would they be more responsible and thoughtful about quality? Would they be more profitable and successful? Would they be more likely to contribute to the greater good?
I think YES.
There is a host of research to support that happier workers do better work. And I would venture to say that when we feel good, we are more likely to do good, overall.
But here is the key: finding a profession you love is a very personal question. Each of us has to define it for ourselves, within the considerations that are important to us.
What does this mean?
It means that not everyone has to be – or wants to be – a CEO, a celebrity, or any of the other popularized professions. Nor does it mean that we should all be business-owners or that our career should be about our greatest passion. There are no ‘shoulds’ here.
So what does this mean for you?
While the criteria are subjective, I have heard many folks mention the following as important criteria for work they love, that loves them back:
- genuine interest & ability in the work
- pleasant, respectful working environment
- trust and integrity amongst co-workers, clients, collaborators
- adequate compensation to support a secure lifestyle
- healthy balance between work life and personal life
- novelty, challenge, opportunities to learn
- opportunities to grow, develop, and advance
- some independence in managing oneself and one’s work
- job security
It is not a privilege to do work that we love, it is a necessity to run a healthy world.
I believe that there is as much glory in being the star tennis player or a business guru as being a farmer with your own plot of land, an innovative hairdresser, a motivational gym teacher, or a damn good accountant. The key is being content with your work and doing it with quality and pride.
So what are your criteria for a job you love?
How do you think happier workers can impact an organization, a community?
Would you work even if you didn’t have to?