How Dream Job Ideas Ruin Life
The conventional wisdom is that jobs should be chosen for love.
If you spend forty hours a week doing something you don't like, you can't be happy. And also - successful, because success is the result of passion for what you do. This idea was broadcast by Steve Jobs and continues to be broadcast by many other famous people, as well as career counselors and psychologists. Research confirms that passion for what you do does make life better. But the idea that everyone should love their job has a flip side.
How the love of work makes a difference
Whether employees like their jobs, how many employees burn out at work, what factors influence attitudes toward work - these are the questions international consulting firms like Gallup and McKinsey & Company are interested in. Their interest in the topic is pragmatic.
It is believed that employee dissatisfaction can reduce a company's efficiency and bring it losses. For example, if an employee doesn't like his job, he can quit at any time. The employer will have to find and train another specialist. On the contrary, an enthusiastic employee is loyal to the company and will not leave it for nothing.
Therefore, in areas where there is a shortage of qualified specialists, employers try to create conditions that are as close to ideal as possible. But even they do not guarantee the love of an employee. There is even a special term - "golden handcuffs". It used to be called an uninteresting, but well-paid job with a lot of privileges. Now it refers to any job, including an interesting one, where the employer, with the help of privileges, is trying to retain an employee. These perks could range from bonuses, health insurance, and a company car to foosball at work and free sushi.
These days, "golden handcuffs" are especially common in the technology industry. All companies that resort to this method benefit from the idea that employees think: work must necessarily be a favorite, bring joy and pleasure. This influences employees' choices and causes them to brush aside competitive offers in which the employer does not emphasize enjoyment.
But there is also a demand for a special attitude toward work on the part of employees. It seems that loving your job allows you to be happier and more successful. And there's logic in that.
A person spends half of the time that he is awake at work. If he's not interested or everything seems pointless, he won't be particularly happy.
The founder of positive psychology, Mihai Csiksentmihaii, believed, for example, that one feels best in the so-called flow state - when one is focused on solving one meaningful task. An important condition: a person is engaged in this task voluntarily, he must be interested. Consequently, love of work should help a person spend more time in a state of flow and increase his level of happiness.
Research supports this. For example, researchers from Stanford and the National University of Singapore tested 858 people and noticed that a passion for work protects against burnout and is associated with a better work-life balance. And a study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that employees who are passionate about their work rate themselves as more prosperous.
Also in one experiment, participants were asked to solve a word puzzle. Those who thought it was interesting and important did best and were least tired.
Loving your job is indeed an important factor that can greatly increase life satisfaction. But the belief that everyone should love their job and that success is impossible without it can have the opposite effect. For example, it can lead to unrealistic expectations and self-disillusionment.
How the idea of loving work can hurt
In 2005 Steve Jobs spoke to Stanford graduates and uttered a phrase that career coaches and entrepreneurs still quote to this day: "The only way to work well is to love what you do.
The cult of Ilon Musk is also based on the idea that he owes his success to his love of what he does. At least the biography of the billionaire, written by journalist Ashley Vance after conversations with the entrepreneur himself and his loved ones, creates just such an image.
But the thesis about the importance of passion in work is not difficult to refute. Researchers analyzed the biographies of very successful CEOs of large companies and those who have not grown into the category of legends. It turned out that neither heightened love for their business, nor the presence of special skills to explain the mad success is impossible - those who remained at the average level, too, were professionals and loved their job. The researchers concluded that factors that the managers themselves could not influence - that is, luck - played an important role in these success stories.
Slogans like "follow your dreams," and "do what you love, and then you won't work a day," don't work for everyone. Psychologist Allison McWilliams cites the following examples: a person's favorite activity can be something that is guaranteed to bring him no income. Or he does not have a favorite activity at all - but it is necessary to pay the rent now.
And besides, the idea that "work must be loved" creates unrealistic expectations. For example, that all work tasks should be interesting, and work should always be a pleasure. Or the love of one's work combined with diligence is bound to lead to rapid career advancement and a high salary. Rarely does a job - even one that one likes and brings in a decent income - stand up to encounter such expectations. In reality, you have to do routine tasks and experience boredom and irritation, even if the work is interesting and creative. And increasing wages and promotions are not necessarily those who are passionate about their work and put out a hundred percent.
So the search for a dream job can take decades - and never lead to the desired result. However, working solely for the money is commonly seen as a sign of failure and problems. But as McWilliams points out, a pragmatic attitude toward one's professional life is compatible with both happiness and success. She identifies three key aspects that shape attitudes toward work.
Job Orientation. A person chooses a job that helps him achieve his personal goals. For example, to earn enough money to buy an apartment in a few years. Or to have a flexible schedule to spend more time with the children.
Career Orientation. The person is very ambitious and wants to reach professional heights. This desire has more to do with social status than with finances. The main desire of such a person is to become a leading expert in his field, to take a high position, to become a leader of other managers.
Vocation orientation. The person is convinced that the work should be closely connected with his personality. Interest, inspiration, meaningfulness in activity are more important to him than status, salary or time for household chores. For him, work is not a way to make money or show himself to be a cool professional, but a purpose.
There are no right or wrong answers to these approaches to work - what matters is how well the strategy matches the aspirations of the individual. But it's also important to understand that "vocation orientation" doesn't always benefit even those to whom it fits.
University of Michigan professor Erin Cheh explains that the advice to "follow your dreams" only benefits those with money and connections. Graduates who choose jobs according to their passions often end up in unstable, low-paying jobs that are far removed from their interests. And it happens to people from working families twice as often as to people of high socioeconomic status. In other words, it is a privilege available to wealthy people to choose jobs they like.
Erin Cheh's own research, based on surveys and interviews with American students, alumni, and career counselors, shows that more than 75% of Americans with college degrees believe that passion for what you will do is a major factor in deciding which career to choose. And 67% of them will choose a job they find meaningful and love - rather than a stable job with a high salary that leaves plenty of time for leisure and personal life. Their argument is that loving a job will protect them from tedious hours of work over tasks that are uninteresting and unimportant to them personally and make their lives happier.
This is not always the case. Even if a person is lucky enough to find a place with decent pay and interesting tasks, the love of work can play a cruel trick on them. Employers tend to assign additional unpaid tasks to passionate employees. In this culture of success encourages workaholism in every possible way and turns work into a kind of religion for atheists: people are supposed to sacrifice their hobbies and vacations, meetings with friends, and care for their families in the name of their careers. Examples of famous entrepreneurs and executives like Ilon Musk only reinforce this idea.
Constant overwork and lack of a life outside of career can lead to emotional professional burnout syndrome, a condition that the World Health Organization has even included in the International Classification of Diseases. A burned-out employee finds himself in a paradoxical situation: he has spent all his energy on a job he loves, but it no longer generates enthusiasm or brings joy. His performance declines, and he may lose his job - because he is "not passionate enough.
How to dislike work and be happy
Of course, we should not completely abandon the idea that work should be fun. But rethinking the notion that work is a central part of our identity and life is helpful. Paid work allows one to pay the bills, and one can get joy and meaning in other ways.
Here are some tips to help you not suffer if your job now is not bad, but not your "dream job."
- Do what you are good at. This is a great alternative to the "do what you love" approach. Ask yourself: what comes easily, naturally, effortlessly to you? If you find areas and positions where you can apply your strengths, you're more likely to enjoy your work. Everyone likes to do what they're good at because it builds self-esteem.
- make boring work easier to do. The first way is to group routine tasks together and do them at the same time every day. And spend the rest of the time on interesting tasks. So you'll always know: an hour or two will have to endure, but then it's time for exciting work. It's best to schedule your routine for times when you're minimally productive: then you won't choke by the time you need to do something more challenging. A second way to make working on boring tasks easier is to reward yourself every time you do them. For example, take a walk in the park or drink your favorite coffee.
- limit the amount of work so that you have more energy and time left for things that are really interesting and enjoyable. For example, for meetings with friends, evenings with family and hobbies. Then you won't feel like life is passing you by.
- look for ways to fulfill yourself outside of work. For someone who wants to help others, volunteering can be that way. For someone who wants to share their experiences, blogging or writing books. The main thing is to look for an activity that makes life meaningful and helps add a new part to the identity: "I volunteer," "I'm a writer," and so on.
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- Remember: love doesn't always happen at first sight. Sometimes it takes time to truly fall in love - including work. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that a little interest in what you do can turn into passion. But there's an important condition: A person must believe that a passion for work can develop over time. Such people achieve the same level of well-being in the workplace as those who immediately seek the ideal.
- Try to find meaning in your work. Consulting expert, author of many bestsellers on career, optimism and positive thinking John Gordon, advises to look closely at the mission of your company: what are its goals, what customers, what it does for clients and for the world. When you understand what that mission is, ask yourself: "How does my work help achieve it?" For example, Gordon writes about a janitor who worked at NASA and felt that his role was important - he, too, helps send a man into space, even if at first glance he's just sweeping the floor.