I have a career crisis about every six months. When I say career crisis, I mean I may have one really bad day at work that makes me throw my hands in the air and think, “why am I doing this?” and wonder out loud that there must be more to life than sitting in front of a computer fiddling with spreadsheets day in and day out.
I fantasise about all the other jobs that I could be doing that would be not only more fun but also give me greater job satisfaction – a restaurant reviewer, a marine biologist, a rock star, or a ski instructor – and I may even go so far as to do some research into a career change. Then I remind myself that, most of the time, my job is not so bad, it pays me a decent salary so that I can afford to eat out when I want to and to go travelling overseas every year, and there are many people in the world that can’t find a job so, really, I should quit complaining.
At its most basic level, working is something we all need to do if we are to earn money to support ourselves and our dependents. Almost every job is a necessary cog in a functioning society – imagine a world without garbage collectors ridding our streets of rubbish or seamstresses manufacturing our clothes. And every job has its boring or tedious aspects.
It seems like a thoroughly modern and first world preoccupation to want a job that you love. We Generations X and Y are obsessed with finding that great career that is a combination of mentally challenging and stimulating yet will give you the satisfaction that you’re contributing to the good in the world while also paying a decent wage. For our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, a job was something you did that paid the bills. You clocked in, clocked out, took your paycheck and were grateful that your company kept employing you year after year. Work wasn’t meant to be fun. And outside the first world, people were just thankful that they had a job, any job.
It must surely be a first world problem to look for anything more in a job, such as fulfillment, stimulation or an ego boost. For those of us still seeking that dream vocation, we rationalise that we spend at least a third of our day working, and we will work for nearly 50 years before we retire. All the more reason to find something that you enjoy more often than not. In the first world, we have decent education systems and the flexibility to retrain in another career, there is a safety net if you can’t find a job or if your business fails, and hiring managers will often look for people with the enthusiasm and ability to learn and give you a chance even if you don’t have the specific skills and experience that they require. This gives us choice, but also makes us anxious that we’re not achieving our full potential, both in contribution to society and job satisfaction.
It’s probably important to like your job enough that you don’t want to stab yourself in the eye with a red hot poker every morning at the thought of going to work. Having nice colleagues helps, as does the ability to enjoy some sort of work/life balance, whether your life involves family, friends, going to the gym, or getting home to watch Masterchef every night.
However, if you hate your job or your toxic boss, then your health and outlook on life will suffer. You may neglect your partner, family and friends, or abandon your healthy diet or gym routine. In this case, it’s probably not a bad idea to start scouring the job sites or start thinking about a career change.
The majority of us probably don’t LOVE our jobs, and despite the fact that we may never command a riveted audience at dinner parties while we talk about the kid whose life was changed immeasurably because of us, this is probably not the worst problem in the world. At least we have a job and hopefully it earns us enough money to give us a decent lifestyle while supporting ourselves and our families.
And hey, at least we can walk down the street in the daggiest tracksuit pants or sans makeup without our photo being splashed on the cover of a tabloid!