Do We Really Need to Love Our Jobs?
How many times have you heard the saying, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life”?
Over and over again, this phrase has been ingrained in us as millennials, the promise that if we just figure out what we’re passionate about, go to college, and get our degree in that field, we can find a job that will give us purpose - and a sizable paycheck.
Many of our parents weren’t given this luxury. Gen X was raised by baby boomers who pushed the perspective that a job was a means to an end, a way to put food on the table and support your family. You worked hard, you worked long, and it didn’t matter what you did so long as you could give your children a better life than what you had. Our parents grew up with that mindset, taking jobs that allowed them to make more money than the previous generation, but they became disillusioned when they realized that a high-paying job couldn’t make them happy.
Then, our generation came along: the Millennials. With Gameboys in hand and the internet at our fingertips, it seemed liked anything was possible for us. Our parents, already well into their careers, encouraged us and told us that we could be anything we wanted to be. That we should find a job we loved and live a life we loved.
Now that we’re here, I’m left pondering that idea. Is it possible to have a job that you love, that also fits into the life that you love? Of course it is. But a different question lingers in my mind: Do we really need to love our jobs?
Chasing the perfect millennial career
You’ve seen them before as you scroll through your newsfeed, the posts that start with, “I’m so excited to announce”, or “Personal news”, or even something like, “My job >>>”. LinkedIn is a veritable firestorm of people proclaiming their passion for their work, commending companies who put in the time to cultivate a culture, humble-bragging about their latest promotion, or waxing poetic on the time that they’ve spent with a company, and how excited they are for their next adventure.
At the risk of sounding negative, it all seems a little phony to me.
Listen, I’m not saying that each and every one of those people is lying, that it’s not possible for someone to love their job. Of course it is! I’ve been in that position myself, obsessed with where I was working, foaming at the mouth to tell everyone and anyone about the cool company that I worked for, waking up and actually feeling blessed to work where I did.
What I am saying is this: I think that, as millennials, we feel a certain pressure to love our jobs.
We grew up with the idea that if you loved your job you had it all. Your life was aspirational, providing for yourself and your family didn’t require you to suffer through monotony or a toxic work environment. In fact, going to work was the best part of your week.
Many of our parents sent us off to college with this end goal in mind, hoping that once we left the nest we’d be able to create a future that many of them didn’t have an opportunity to pursue. They encouraged us to major in subjects like Classics, Economics, Political Science, Journalism, History, Sociology - our interest in the topic being more important than the job opportunities we’d find upon graduation. Their biggest hope for us was that we’d love our lives just a bit more than they loved theirs - who were we to disappoint?
Not only does our upbringing dictate that we love our jobs (or at least that we convey that to others), but today we also operate with a social media mindset. We’re used to using platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to showcase our “highlight reels”, the best, most envy-inducing, aesthetically-pleasing moments of our lives. Our careers are just a segment of this. As an ambitious generation, we want to prove to our peers that we are pursuing the best opportunities, landing the coolest jobs, and that we just couldn’t. be. happier. with the direction our lives have taken.
Cue those “Excited to announce” posts, and the endless Instagram stories of company parties, retreats, and wild happy hours.
(No shade, I’ve done it too)
With all of these pressures weighing on us, our generation has spent these early years of adulthood chasing after the perfect millennial career. One that we jump out of bed for in the morning, that pays us well, and appreciates our hard work. We’ve let ourselves be caught up in the chase for glamorous careers at sexy companies, higher social status, and large salaries.
Was that the right decision?
Do we really need to love our jobs?
Truth be told, I believe that chasing after a career that you love is a worthy pursuit. I will never be the person to tell you to settle, or that what you’re doing now is good enough, or that you should just be happy about your situation.
What I will say, is that I think we all need to stop romanticizing our careers.
Start with your family and friends. The next time that someone asks you how you’re liking your job, answer honestly and confidently. There’s no shame in saying that it’s different than you thought it would be, that you’re hoping to take on more responsibility soon, or that you’re considering other career opportunities. I think that confronting these less-than-perfect parts of life head-on is the simplest way we can stop this cycle of generational pressure to achieve, succeed, and live on others’ terms.
Then, take a look at your social presence. Have you been snapping your way through the workday, putting the message out there that your job ROCKS, when you’re actually having a hard time with a colleague or your manager? Are those team parties that you’re posting your company’s only attempt at employee satisfaction? Have your posts conveyed the message to your followers that your job is pretty much perfect?
Not every job is perfect, and I would hazard to say that very few are near-perfect at all. We should all be more conscious of the times that we use social media to pump ourselves up or to give ourselves an ego boost, especially when we’re faking it.
With all that said, I believe that to feel fulfilled in our lives, we need to love at least an aspect of our jobs. Even if you’re in a career that pays the bills for now, or is a stepping stone toward something bigger and more aligned with your goals, as long as you can find something to love about it, (your colleagues, autonomy, flexibility, clients, office, snack options) you’ll feel like you have a purpose. If you’re already in a job that lights you up, (lucky dog!) finding purpose in your job is even easier.
So, do we really need to love our jobs? I think that it’s different for everyone. Isn’t that the most annoying response to a question?! But in this case, it’s true. Depending on where you are in your career, you might love a single aspect of your job, or the whole kit and kaboodle. Either way, I think it’s about time that we all gave ourselves some grace, and took off the pressure to love our work fiercely, to show the world just how great our jobs are, and how great we are through association. Let’s promise each other that we’ll stay open-minded, that we’ll be more conscious of the message we’re proliferating, and that we’ll tone it down on the over-the-top LinkedIn posts from now on. Sound good? Great. Let’s go change the world, together.