Last September, I started this blog with a post about why young people hated their jobs. I argued that most of our job hating resulted from at least one of the following reasons:
- The College Hangover: missing the good ol’ days of school
- Bottom of the Totem Pole: you’re not really a big deal anymore
- Lofty Expectations: ambition can sometimes lead to indecision/regret/paralyzation
- Too Much Freedom: there’s no set path anymore
- Your Job Actually Sucks: sometimes it just does
Now, seven months later, I’ve found that some of my job-hating friends have made peace with their chosen professions. I’m not sure if it’s because (a) they have more responsibilities now, (b) they have lower (or different) expectations, or (c) it’s a recession, so it’s nice to have a job. I’m guessing that all three have some influence on why previously intolerable jobs are now slightly less intolerable.
Personally, I struggle with expectations (b) quite often: it’s hard for me to justify shelving ambition and settling for a job you don’t really want. At the same time, perhaps it’s a case of reality settling in and kicking out your idealism. It’s tough to convince yourself that your gradiose ambitions will definitely lead to something that can make you happy and pay the bills.
For example, I have a friend “Zach” who works in corporate finance for a media company. Zach joined the company mostly because he was interested in broadcast journalism, which he had dabbled in during college. But like many other pragmatically-minded folks, he studied finance at school instead. Now, two years into his role, Zach has established a strong network and a stellar reputation as a future finance leader. He has an offer to work directly with senior members of the finance team. Even though he’d be working long days and many weekends, he’d have job security, good compensation, and tremendous exposure within the company.
He’d also hate it. “There’s a good chance I would jump out of a tall building after a year,” he says. He’s only half kidding.
Zach’s real dream is to become an on-air journalist. He has spent time in front of a camera, he has produced shows in college, and he is relatively familiar with the industry. Yet, he also knows that most on-air talent start out as gofers or low-level researchers in podunk towns. He knows that it takes years for people to make it on air, and most won’t. He knows that a starting salary in the industry won’t be able to support his current lifestyle, and that getting a job will be almost as hard as keeping a job, especially in this economic environment.
He also knows that if he were ever to do it, he’s got to do it now. After all, he’s young, smart, and hard-working. Even if he fails, he’ll have a background in finance to fall back on. So, two years out of college, he has to make a decision: Settle for a job he thinks he’ll hate and most likely end up in that career forever… or take a risk, sacrifice a bit now, and start anew in a job he thinks he’ll love, even if it might take years to get there.
Zach’s not sure if he’s willing to give up the security and lifestyle that his current job offer (and future jobs in finance) would bring. He also doesn’t want to completely give up on finance–even though he may never love it, at least he could end up tolerating it. But then again, there will always be that gnawing feeling that he never tried, never took the risk, never gave his dream a chance.
So what should Zach do? What would you do? Take the secure, stable job that sucks, or take a few years to pursue the profession that you want? More generally, should we even aspire to have a job that we truly, madly, deeply love? Or is tolerating our job the most we can ever expect?