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:

  1. You hate your boss.
  2. You want more prestige.
  3. You want to meet new people.
  4. You want more meaning in life. (Penelope argues that “a job does not give life meaning”.)
  5. 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:

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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