Let’s start with some life maths. Most people (on average), dedicate 8 hours a day to work, the same time to sleep, and a final 8 hours to family, friends, hobbies, reading, cleaning, gardening, fitness, pets, and anything else you want or need to squeeze in there. The ratio may vary, but whatever way you look at it, work is dominating most of our waking hours. That might be ok if you love what you do, but when work stress increases, this is an equation that can quickly learn to burnout.
We often hear from mentors, teachers, and parents that we should find a job we love. But just how many people are lucky enough to follow their passion? And is it ok if you’re just working to pay the bills? In this blog, we look at how job love – or lack of it – could impact your career.
Let’s think about a situation where you have hard-to-find or replicate skills in the market. Your employer doesn’t want to lose you so they reward you with great compensation or perks, but you’re completely bored of the role and you’re essentially going through the motions. This is often called a “golden handcuffs” arrangement and it can be tough to give up, even if your passion lies in another direction. In times of economic uncertainty, it’s particularly hard to walk away from a steady, reliable, and predictable situation. There’s no love here, but no hate either.
You’ve been let down (and looked over)
Another way to lose the love for your job is when you feel like you’re putting in lots of effort and not getting rewarded. What can start out as passion can quickly burn away when you’re always the one getting looked over for promotion. When employees feel like they aren’t getting back what they put in, they can often withdraw. The ‘quiet quitting’ trend we wrote about last week is nothing more and nothing less than a desire not to take unpaid work. And that load becomes much heavier when you’re not getting rewarded for going above and beyond every week.
Time to get pragmatic
In our private life, we think about love and emotions guiding our relationships. At work, it could pay to be more pragmatic. But first, you need to identify what drives you. Which one of these feels most like you?
Comfort-orientated:You look at situations practically and generally consider your job as a means to an end – to pay bills, protect your work-life balance etc. You’re happy to keep the status quo for as long as you can.
Growth-orientated:Status and success are very important to you and you examine every work situation through the lens of how it will bring you closer to your desired career level. You focus on networking, growing your skills, and always have an eye on that next step.
Vocation-oriented:The work you do is your highest priority and you are invested in being great at your job for its own sake You may think about work as a vocation or passion, rather than something you do for money or status.
None of these approaches is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and you may find that you sit in the middle of two categories. But reflecting on what you want and need from work can be a great way to make pragmatic decisions about your career that aren’t defined by love or passion for a particular job or sector.
We hold up people who have achieved huge work success as role models. But often being ‘married’ to your work – however much that work started out as a passion – can quickly cause burnout in other areas of your life. In fact, keeping a healthy distance from your work can avoid heartbreak and exhaustion. Your job doesn’t have to define you – unless you want it to.
Here are a few ideas for avoiding an unhealthy relationship with work:
- Focus on what you do well and what doesn’t cost you too much time – it will boost your self-esteem and allow you to use your work time in the most meaningful way.
- Group routine and boring tasks early in the morning – clearing your day for more stimulating tasks.
- Set boundaries – clarify your tasks and responsibilities and learn to say no when you need to.
- Find some ways to express yourself outside of work – hobbies, volunteering, sports, etc.
- Love doesn’t always happen at first sight – take a look at your job from another angle. You can sometimes find new meaning and opportunities.
- Try to compare your personal values and the values of your company – do they resonate? If yes – there is a chance that you can rediscover your job love and find new purpose.
There is a story about a guy who cleaned floors in the NASA building, who – when asked what his job was – said, “I help to send a human to space.”
Did he know something more about love? Or had he simply found the right angle to look at work from?