In one of those worlds-colliding scenarios, I’ve been reading a lot of career-related articles for a writing project I’m working on, while at the same time giving (solicited) life and work advice to some friends, while at the same time reading my usual blogs and links on Twitter. Yes, I consume a LOT of data in my day-to-day life. Now you know why I like to relax with Candy Crush and dumb sitcoms instead of great literature.
Anyway, this one piece I read really stuck with me: 6 should-be-common-sense realities about doing what you love for a living. First you should be aware that, a) there is a do-what-you-love movement, and b) there is an ANTI do-what-you-love movement. Of course there is. Sigh. It’s like the Super Bowl commercials all over again. I guess some people’s hobby is HATING EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE.
But before I get into the article, I’ll share a little anecdote with you about when I was a fresh-faced young college graduate just starting out in the work world. I set up an informational interview with an alum of my college who worked at USA Today, I think, as an arts and entertainment reporter. I thought his job sounded awesome. But by the end of our hour together, I was left with the distinct impression that this guy didn’t seem all that psyched about his awesome job. Nor was he especially encouraging toward a young person hoping to follow his career path.
This leads me to point #1 in the above-linked article: “Work you love is still work.” Listen, I’ve known people who interview celebrities, film commercials starring cute kids, play with puppies, and design purses for a living. For my own job, I’ve gotten massages, seen movie premieres, and been wined and dined. It’s ALL work. It involves politics, paperwork, and in some cases, poop. It doesn’t mean those people don’t love what they do. It DOES mean that anything you do for work involves actual WORK, which is by definition not always fun.
Point #2 (my own point) is that one woman’s dream job is another man’s drudgery. Maybe the entertainment reporter really wanted to be a molecular biologist. I don’t know, it didn’t come up during lunch. I DO know that I thought working for a glossy fashion magazine in NYC was a dream job until I did it one winter. (This was before The Devil Wears Prada, OK?) Turns out licking envelopes and reading press releases about the 5 Hottest New Belts for Spring is not that fun.
The next point is that figuring out and finding work you love can be your entire life’s work. (See #3.) Meaning, it can take a boatload of time and lead you in many, MANY directions and even down a few dead-ends. I used to think that it would be great to be one of those people who knew from birth exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up, but now I know that comes with its own challenges. For instance, you could be all the way through medical school and half of your residency before deciding that you can think of nothing worse than being a doctor for the rest of your life.
And here’s a mind-blower: doing what you love may have nothing to do with your day job at all. Maybe you love being a father and your job is just what you do to pay the bills. Maybe you love your volunteer work, which you didn’t discover until after you retired from a 30-year career doing something entirely different. Maybe you love writing books that may or may not ever be published. I once saw a guy on Oprah who loved mustard so much he quit his corporate job to devote his life TO A CONDIMENT.
I’ll be honest and say that these insights would’ve devastated the 21yo fresh-faced me. But the less fresh-faced 39yo me is comforted by that knowledge, and bolstered by years of experience that have put me on this path towards doing work I love. For me, it’s a combination of mothering and writing, contributing and creating. And — though it’s a cliché that 21yo me would have sneered at — it’s a journey, not a destination.
What have you found to be true about doing work you love?
READ O’ THE DAY: How one woman discovered her “happy job” included expertly applying false eyelashes to people, and how she inspired others in the process.