You hear it all the time--doing what you love, what you are passionate about, is the one true path to career bliss. Many experts go a step further, promising wealth and success, too.
But is this really true? Maybe you don’t yet know what you love. Maybe you know what you love but can’t find work doing it. Maybe what you love—designing clothes, teaching kindergarten, baking cakes, writing novels, playing basketball—is not lucrative enough, and will likely never be lucrative enough, to support you.
Let’s float a concept that is almost heretical in the career advice biz: Work as a means to an end (paying your mortgage, raising your kids) is just as legitimate and just as respectable as work that feeds your inner passion.
In fact, most people who merely like, rather than love, their jobs are leading happy and fulfilled lives. Yes, you can get satisfaction and even pride out of doing a decent job well and competently. You can find enjoyment in facets of your work—your colleagues, your geographical location, your schedule—not strictly central to the job but still very important. And you can feed your inner passions in ways other than on the job.
This does not mean that if you’re miserable at work you just need to suck it up. Hating your job, dreading the hours you spend there, counting the minutes till the end of the day, can poison the non-work portion of your life and even take a toll on your health. If you do truly despise your job, if it is sucking your life force, take steps now to find some new way of earning a living.
The point under consideration here is that there is nothing wrong with you if you don’t feel a passionate love for your job. Think about this: Maybe the insistence that it’s essential to adore your job is more distressing and depressing than working at a job that is just OK. If you are young or starting out, being told you have to hold out for that ideal job can add unnecessary pressure, not to mention delay, to an already stressful process. If you are unable to make any move for fear your choice will be less than perfect, then maybe the “you must love your job” credo is standing in your way instead of pointing you in the right direction.
A good thing to remember no matter where you are in your work life is that every job is temporary. Moreover, it’s not necessary or even possible to be thrilled with what you’re doing every single minute of every single day. And you know what? The OK job you may have right now has a good chance of leading to work you like much much better, once you're farther along the road of life.
Meanwhile, cut yourself some slack. Enjoy the process. Do good work. Learn what you can learn. Give yourself some time to evolve into your ultimate career, which may turn out to be something you can’t even visualize today. And which you may even “love.”
Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.