I’m planning to give a talk to a group of graduating college seniors later this month. One point I’d like to make is that it’s important to love your work. Nobody should work at a job they hate.
This is common advice, of course, but I also hear people say that it’s okay to work at a crummy job if it’s a stepping stone toward a larger goal. For example, yesterday Penelope at the Brazen Careerist wrote that you shouldn’t change careers for any of the following reasons:
- You hate your boss.
- You want more prestige.
- You want to meet new people.
- You want more meaning in life. (Penelope argues that “a job does not give life meaning”.)
- You want more happiness. (Penelope says that the connection between a good job and happiness is overrated”.)
I frowned when I read those last two points. As somebody who has spent the past fifteen years in a job he hates, I can attest that especially if you derive meaning from life outside work, non-meaningful work can be crushing. I get decent pay, good benefits, and a chance to work with my family, but because I don’t like the job itself, I’m unhappy. I’m actively attempting to change careers to something I love — writing — and I would encourage any young person to do the same.
Here’s some related reading:
- Paul Graham: “How to do what you love”, a piece I’ve been wanting to discuss ever since I started this site.
- San Francisco Gate: Why do you work so hard? “Is it maybe time to quit your safe job and follow your path and infuriate the establishment?”
- Entrepreneur: Do what you love; get rich
- I’ve just begun reading The 4-Hour Workweek, which touches on some of these issues. (Look for a review soon.)
What sort of advice would you offer to a young person just entering the work force? What’s the most important thing to look for in a job? Is money the top priority? Job satisfaction?
Is it better to be in a job you love that barely pays the rent, or to be making a fortune in a job that sucks your soul out and spits it on the floor? How can you tell what you love when you’re just starting out?
Correction: As a couple of you have pointed out, I did a lousy job of noticing that Penelope makes a distinction between a job and a career. My bad. The core question remains, despite my lack of reading comprehension.
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