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What’s Your Definition of What a Job Should Be?

I was perusing some articles in the LinkedIn News area recently and I came across this interesting look at what is changing for millennials when it comes to careers in the last couple of years.

There are a lot of interesting points made in the article, so I do hope you’ll go read it. Much of it has to do with the “hustle” culture that grew up over the last decade or so, as well as the importance of having work that you were passionate about, etc. Much of the article goes on to point out how people are seeing the downside of those things now, especially around burnout. After all, what better way to burn out than to believe that the most important thing is to do work that you are so passionate about that you’re always hustling to build your career and willing to take less than your worth, and work longer and harder to reach your goals and that any time not “hustling” is wasted?

Yet, that is what the culture told us, wasn’t it? We were all on our way to independent wealth instead of a boring 9-5 job, except only a very few ever really seemed to get any actual wealth out of all that work.

However, given that, I saw a quote attributed to Anne Helen Petersen from her book Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation that I found to be an excellent way of describing work that I have come to embrace myself over the years:

In Can’t Even, Petersen writes about that moment of reevaluating what makes for positive employment — and landing on an answer that’s not even that novel: “A good job is one that doesn’t exploit you and that you don’t hate.”

I will admit to not having read the book, after all, I’m not a millennial so it didn’t really come to my attention. However, the thing about this description is that it’s kind of the polar opposite of what we’ve been told for years now, that we have to find work that we are so passionate about we’d do it for free. Which is BS. That is not work, that’s volunteerism. Work is how we make a living, how we afford the things we need and want in our lives. When it becomes more than that we need to be very careful about what work is demanding from us because that is when we become vulnerable to being exploited. We start putting out much more time and effort than is healthy or giving much more value than we are being paid to give. We end up “hustling” for the business, or the cause, 24 hours a day while getting paid a salary for 40 hours a week.

What I have come to realize as I’ve gotten older and maybe at least a little bit smarter is that the hustle is a dangerous place, precisely because it becomes our life. Our work was never meant to be our entire lives. It can’t be. Increasingly, other people are coming to the same conclusion. There is a great deal of value in having a life outside of work. This also means that there is a great deal of value in having a job that allows for life outside of work.

I wouldn’t necessarily have used Helen’s statement above to describe what I look for or why I like my current job. Probably because my definition wasn’t as succinct. For me, it’s always been having these things:

  1. Work that is interesting to me
  2. Work that fits into my lifestyle. (I want to work from home, I want to have hobbies and enjoy time away from work, a salary that allows for a reasonable comfort level, etc.)
  3. People I don’t hate working with

That’s it. I know there are some who will tell you that they are passionate about their work, and they “never work a day in my life”. Good for them, but we have to start admitting that is a very small, select, group of people in a very small, select, number of jobs. There are not billions of jobs out there like that for everyone to just go get. There are not even millions of them. Maybe I’m not going to change the world by doing just interesting work with people I don’t hate. That’s OK because I have the time to change the world in my own little way when I’m not working instead.

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