"Find A Job/Career You Love" -- Unrealistic Advice?

One often hears a parent saying to a child: “Find a job/career that you really love, because you will be doing it for the rest of your life.” Though this career advice is given with love and is obviously well-intended, is it really realistic or appropriate?

My take on things is that a minority of people have jobs/careers they really “love,” not necessarily because they made poor career choices along the way, but more often because there simply aren’t that many lovable careers/jobs out in the “real world.” Moreover, going out into the world expecting to find a lovable job sets up unrealistic expectations and might paradoxically make that person more prone to being dissatisfied with perfectly acceptable, if unspectacular, jobs. I might also add that lots of students pursue fascinating majors while in college—fields of study that they “love”—yet one that don’t hold much career potential. On another note, couldn’t this advice of finding a job/profession that one loves explain some of the ambivalence among college students over what field of study they should pursue because nothing really excites them?

I know a great many professionals and my impression is that few indeed truly love what they do—never have, never will. Most are lukewarm about their jobs. Some aspects they enjoy, other aspects they despise. Almost all would love to retire early or work far less.

Isn’t it more realistic and advisable to say to a young person: “find something that reasonably interests you—something that you would enjoy doing for the next, say, 10 years”—and then hope they grow to enjoy, and maybe even love, it?

Reflecting back, I’ve never had a job I’ve really loved. Enjoyed, yes. Loved, no.

So, that’s the OP. Your input—including whether you love your job/profession—is greatly appreciated.

I agree with you. I think this advice ranks right up there with “You can do anything if you just put your mind to it.” I think it is well-meaning parents who want their kids to like their jobs better than they themselves like theirs.

FTR, I have enjoyed one of my jobs because of the folks I worked with, but that’s the crapshoot you’re always faced with: It’s not the job it’s the people that drive you nuts, so even if you find the kind of job you “love”, there are still too many variables determining whether you really will be happy.

I agree too that acting like kids will like the same thing all their lives, or that employers would even be loyal that long, or that industries stay the same that long, is unrealistic.

These parents have dreamed of doing a job they love and hope for this for their kids; it’s hard to see that anything would improve that much for most people.

If you can find a job that doesn’t make you want to jump under the commuter train every morning, you’re damn lucky. I’m still looking . . .

—“Anna Karenina”

I agree with everything said so far. I also would add that to the extent that financial success can influence success in other areas, choosing the job you love might negatively impact your life in ways that you haven’t considered.

Still, all things being equal, it’s obviously better to have a job you like better, if possible. Sometimes people can feel pressured by society to chose a career path that brings them things that others consider important, but that don’t matter as much to them. For this reason it is important to consider whether you are going into the field for the things that matter to you or just unthinkingly following in the road more traveled.

Interesting proposition.

A couple of things that make “choosing a career” so difficult is that studying something or doing it as a hobby is usually SO different from doing it as a profession. And until you do a job day in and day out, you lack a realistic impression of what it would be like. Especially true for young people who have never had to hold down a full-time job. Further complicating things is that no matter how much you want to do something, you have to find someone ho is willing to pay you for it.

I think the best one can aspire to is to develop strong interests. Then they can try to pursue careers in various related fields. I believe a job must be weighed in terms of how it affects other aspects of your life. In the best of all worlds, your job might perfectly reflect your interests. Therefore, going to work every day is a joy, and as long as you make a subsistence wage, you do not need much else to round out your life. A legitimate alternative, tho, is that you have a job you don’t mind that much, but that pays you enough and does not dominate your life to the extent that you can pursue your interests outside of work.

I try to show my kids that success does not necessarily mean making the most money possible. The elusive goal is happiness, which is defined differently for different people. IMO most well balanced people work to live, instead of living to work.

Agreed, especially from the “hobby-to-career” view…
I love video games. I’d play them all day if I could. However, if I were to get a job at a video game magazine where I had to perform under deadlines and such, I think it would take much of the pleasure out of it.

Find a job you like: possible, and semi-easy. Find a job you love: possible, but exceedingly temporary. The job changes what you love :wink:

Define what you mean by “love.”

If you mean “Every day I look forward to sitting at my desk and putting in 8 or more hours at this place, on this day,” then no, there aren’t a lot of jobs like that.

If you mean “I enjoy this and I’m good at it and I can’t imagine doing anything else,” then yes, it’s good advice.

People have aptitudes and personalities. Different fields fit one better than another. If you like working with numbers, you’re going to be happier as an accountant than as a minister. If you like working with your hands and not obsessing over paperwork, then be a carpenter or plumber. Some people want to be their own boss, others prefer an organizational structure where they can focus on a single task and let someone else worry about payroll.

The saddest people I see are the ones who’ve been working 20 or 25 years, have progressed their way into management, and miss not getting to work on the actual engineering plans, or hit the road and actually sell the product, or actually teach the students, etc. Some of us are meant to “do” and when our jobs take us away from that, we suffer.

But, then, is the general encouragement to find a profession/job that one “loves” just setting up most of us for disappointment and disillusionment?

In some Asian countries, for instance, one quickly adopts the prevailing view that work is difficult, life is difficult, and that expectations to the contrary are unrealistic and possibly self-defeating. Obviously we don’t want to indoctrinate our own kids with this rather grim view, but is telling them they should find something they really love–something that really gets them jazzed and makes them happy to get up on Monday mornings–also a bit naive, setting some up for a meandering path to a career el Dorado?

Indeed, if we suggested that kids shoot for a job/career they find “reasonably interesting or gratifying,” isn’t that about all we can ask, though we can secretely wish they find even more? OR, is this a case of shooting low and missing the stars and moon?

If you have ever had a job that you absolutely detested, then you wouldn’t be asking this question.

Any job you do should contain some element of interest to you. Otherwise you are merely killing your spirit to fatten your wallet. If you have a spouse or children all of this is subject to modification, to a degree.

Nevertheless, having something to look forward to each workday is an irreplacable asset in your everyday life.

Ever since I saw my first microphotograph of an integrated circuit I had a burning desire to know how they were fabricated. That curiosity has made such work into an avenue of exploration for my entire career.

This one really resonated with me. I have tried to find the perfect job, so far without success. I believe that you really have to have a “life plan”-which details how you will accomplish your goals. My biggest regret-I did have one job that I enjoyed, only to leave it, because I chose to change careers (which turned out to be a disaster). I think the most important thing is: work as HARD as you can while you are young-and save as much money as possible. If nothing else-having money in the bank buys you some measure of freedom. You do not want to reach age 55 with a job you hate, financial commitments (car loan, mortgage, debts, etc.) and no money in the bank!

I disagree, finding a job you love is what you should try to do. Just don’t get your hopes up untill you can get it.

And, so, Zenster–what’s your take on the OP? What do you mean by “some element of interest to you?” Is holding out for a job/career path that you really love realistic? Or should one settle for something reasonably satisfying? Obviously, plenty of people do not exercise lots of control on this selection, whether due to lack of opportunity, poverty, early parenthood, etc. Is expecting passion, love, fascination–whatever–realistic, or the recipe for disillusionment? By the way, would you agree that many jobs, are (for want of a better word) “unlovable?” (i.e., they basically suck?)

I’ve been ``talking’’ with my parents about this topic recently because I’m in my first year of university and I’m supposed to select a program of study soon.

They’re trying to convince me just the opposite of the ``choose a career you love’’ doctrine: it doesn’t matter if you like the job or not, as long as you make money. (What tsunamisurfer pointed out about some Asian cultures is entirely true.) They also make the entirely valid point that if I made a quarter million dollars a year doing surgery, I can afford to take a few months of vacation every year and write my novel then. Actually, I’d love to practice medicine, but no reputable medical school will accept me with the grades I’ve been getting. So I’ve been looking at other options. My parents want me to do pharmacy, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy that as a career, and it’d completely kill my chances of entering med school by dropping my grades even further.

My viewpoint is that I have to select a career that I enjoy, or at least that I don’t despise. I’m not going to spend 45 years doing something I hate. But I also have to be realistic, and keep alternatives in the back of my head.

I want to write for a living, particularly advertising copy. But I realize it’s a very competitive field, so my backup plan is to complement my developing writing abilities with my technical skills or my other major in human biology to do technical writing. That career isn’t as exciting as a creative one, but it pays well and there’s a shortage of English majors who can program Java.

That way, if I manage to break into the career I want, great. If I don’t, I still have a reasonable backup plan. On the other hand, if I had to do pharmacy, I’m almost guaranteed have a stable job, but then I’d have little chance of doing something I enjoy.

I think I’ll do okay.

Actually, this applies to much of the “developing world.”

Pharmacy? Can you really see yourself counting in “fives” for the rest of your life?

I think the way I ordered the ideas in my post was unclear… I meant to say that I didn’t want to do pharmacy even though it means a stable job, and that I think my plan to do tech writing is safe enough that I’d be okay with an English degree.

Both Mr. Winkie and I are lucky to have jobs that we believe in very strongly. That means that even though we may not like the particular task we have to do at the moment, the end result is well worth it. We also both get paid fairly well for what we do, so luckily we didn’t have to make a choice.

Some of our friends subscribe to the “I don’t work to live, I live to work” and do whatever makes them the most money. However, they also jump from job to job often and hate going to work every day.

My opinion – you’re going to spend most of your awake time each week at work (if you work full time), so you should at least like what you do. However, I don’t think it is realistic to pick one thing you’ll love doing until the end of time.

I deal with this every day.

I love my job, my fiance hates hers. It is probably the only problem we have between us. I don’t understand why she keeps her job if she hates it so much.

Given that “not working” is not one of the options, I wish she would get off her ass in her free time and go find another job. I hate hearing her constantly bitch…constantly complain…

If you hate your job, then leave. Go get another one.
I work for myself. I started out with a partner, and we started a contracting business. We did all the work ourselves for years. We knew what we wanted, and we worked for it. It took 7 years, but this year we finally moved our office out of my attic and got a secretary. We have a bunch of guys who do the work and we spend our time estimating and dealing with customers. It sucked for years, but I loved it because I had a dream.

She sees herself going nowhere in her job, so she feels like she is just marking time and suffering throughout the day. She hates her boss. She hates the policies.

But she won’t leave.
My advice, from seeing both sides of the fence…

Only get a job you hate if it is temporary or you are taking some learning experience away from it. Have a plan. Be excited.

You only get one life, make it worthwhile.

You may not be able to get the job you want TOMORROW…but if you suck it up and sacrifice, you will work your way up to it.

BTW…She makes more than me, but I wouldn’t trade places for anything. In fact, in all the people I come into contact with, Navy Jet Fighter pilots are the only people I would trade jobs with:)[sub]damn eyesight[/sub]

HEY-- I MUST disagree with everybody. Jobs that are “perfectly acceptable” are actually, way too often, entirely UNacceptable. That theory is the same one that justifies fraternity/sorrority hazing that always winds up killing some kid–“it was really hard on us, so why shouldn’t we be hard on them, too?” Well, gee, how about because it lacks all human compassion, it’s immoral, and it’s throughly unnecessary?

The connection here is that most jobs are with corporations, and most corporations don’t care about their employees (or not as human beings anyway) --i.e. they lack all compassion. And they exploit their employees (i.e. immoral). For example, look at any retail or service industry in this country and what percentage of their workers work almost full-time hours but make “part time” wages with no benes, health care, insurance, etc… and for scraps. But of course, that is the “reality” Why? Because everyone sits back and moans about that being “just the way it is”

Well Bullsh*t!! Lots of occupations had it a lot worse than we’ll ever know (I hope) just at the turn of last century. A lot of very hardworking and brave union leaders and organizers changed that. They got minimum wages effected. Removed child labor. Set work day standards. Safety inspections. A lot of things you don’t have to think about. But they did it because they thought that their working conditions were UNacceptable. If the cube-farm with the brain dead greedy managers is Unacceptable to you – CHANGE it.

I’ve worked for big corporations and little ones, too. They’re all the same. But I also worked at trying to make those places nicer, better places to work. If everyone feels this way, it can be made better.

Yeah there’s no point in making money if your life sucks. And many of us are defined by our jobs.

I agree with Winkie…change is good. If you have a job you may get tired of it after a time. No one says you have to stick with it for your whole life…put a little variety.

Whatever matters to you…be it, money or enjoying yourself, you have to choose. Being as you’re the one who will be working and reaping the benefits, as well as making the sacrifices. So while you should listen to your parents, ultimately it is your own values you have to listen to.

As for the OP, I think the route to go is to give teenagers the tools they need for making the best, most informed decisions they can about their future career paths for the rest of their lives; decision-making, research methods, how to find out about careers, how to look at yourself and interpret your interests, etc. This was completely neglected when I was in high school - I have no idea if schools are any better now. People shouldn’t be “lucking into” a good career for themselves; they need to be taught how to make it happen.

xekul, if you have already figured out what you would like to do, hang on to it. Figuring out which direction to go is half the battle.

Quote from Freedom: "…Have a plan. Be excited…"
Excellent advice. That really struck a chord with me - I haven’t been excited by anything career-related in a LONG time. I’m working on it, though.

Dweezil, would you like to come to Alberta and lead the battle to revolutionize the temp industry here? Temps are treated as disposable employees here.