Most of us have heard the pearl of wisdom that we all should do what we love. It’s a mainstay for many parents and counsellors looking to steer eager graduates away from grinding away at jobs they hate for a good paycheck.
On the face of it, striving to love your work isn’t bad advice. Who doesn’t want to walk into their office/bar/shop every day with a smile on their face and eager expectations for the glories that the day will hold? But digging deeper, the mantra of focusing on always doing what you love is seen by some as economically damaging for our society, (consider the real economic cost of flitting from one job to the next looking for work you absolutely love), unrealistic for the vast majority of us (tell the janitor or short order cook that they ought to shoot for loving what they do) and even theoretically impossible (would the vast majority of us work even the jobs we say we loved without pay?).
As Chrissy Scivicque writes in Forbes, once you do something for money, the same activity takes a decidedly different meaning.
“Work is called work because it’s not play. Once you depend on something to put food on your table, it becomes something different. It’s no longer “that thing you do for fun,” it’s “that thing you have to do for survival.”
Indeed, even professional and highly creative jobs sometimes require a lot of slogging. There’s always the spreadsheet budget that needs filling out or (if you’re higher up the professional food chain) that employee that needs disciplining. While you may like the diversity of your job, odds are you won’t like all elements of it.
While always expecting to love your work is unrealistic, loving your craft and your career is a different story. In a recent LinkedIn article Visa’s Executive Vice President Technology RajatTanejatold students in a recent commencement address to focus on a career (rather than a job) that they will find rich and fulfilling. A paycheck should be seen as an “added bonus”.
While you are unlikely to love every task you’re assigned or even every project you’re put on, being passionate about a more macro-picture of your professional life and future is important.This means not focusing so much on the day to day or the dollars you’re being paid, but on how your work’s helping you hone your craft and build your career in a sustainable way.
In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Monique Valcour, a professor of management at EDHEC Business School in France who has spent 15 years researching careers, outlines her tips for a sustainable career this way:
1. Analyze the data of your daily life.
2. Find a workplace that supports your priorities outside the office.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of learning.
4. Work with inspiring people.
5. Develop rare and valuable skills.
By focusing on the bigger picture (your career) and using your time effectively (by honing your craft) you may find a far more effective mantra for a successful and more importantly happy, work life. You may not always love what you do, but you will be charting a course in the right direction.