Sunday, January 13, 2008

Do I Have to Love My Job?

As a matter of fact, I DO love my job. There are things about it, I would fix--like, say, my salary. And of course, there is the occasional supervisor that both I and the universe could do without. But overall, I get a lot of satisfaction from my career. If I haven't exactly saved the world, I do believe I have made my little corner of it better for a number of people.

My father, who was passionate about many things--building boats in his backyard workshop, developing photographs in his darkroom, collecting stamps--would probably have disagreed that one's work need be one's passion. He was a longshoreman. He didn't love it, but neither did he hate it. The work was mindless, he could read on the job and he liked the guys in his crew. In addition, the pay was satisfactory, the benefits excellent, and he didn't mind getting up every day and going to work on the docks. He had no expectation that work was for anything other than making money. It was the rest of his life, everything outside of his work, that mattered.

JD at Get Rich Slowly started this discussion. See his post on How to Find Work that You Love.

Meg from World of Wealth replied, in a guest post on JLP's All Financial Matters, that Loving Your Job is Overrated.

(Are you confused, now? Take a look at all three blogs involved--there's some great financial advice lurking there.)

The thing is, JD, JLP and Meg are all fairly young and all three can afford to make some career mistakes before settling in. I sit higher above that particular fray. I've been employed for 40 years. Counting the restaurant job in high school, and my employment with the telephone company throughout vacations from college, I have had six employers, four of them in my career field. I've been at my current position for seventeen years. I fully intend to retire from this same employer in another ten years.

I consider fiction writing to be one of my passions. If I had to live my life over, I would put a higher premium on my writing. But I am not sorry I did not try to make a living at it. I hang around people who did that, and while I do admit to pangs of regret (not to mention, jealousy!) when I read their books, short stories and websites, I do not think I could have exercised some of my other passions, such as adopting children (little money-sucking darlings that they are!) if I had chosen to be a full-time writer.

So I made a choice.

I put away my liberal arts degree and headed off to graduate school in a field well-known for being remunerative.

But once I got out, I made some more choices that limited the financial value of that degree. I was passionate about saving the world--hey, it was the seventies and we still thought we could do that. So I headed into the world of non-profits serving low-income clients. It did not pay as well as many other positions in my field, but it certainly paid more (and more regularly) than if I'd become a full-time writer.

What I have discovered over the years is that I do have to have passion for my work. I cannot imagine plugging away for all these years at a job that I hated, or a job that bored me. I cannot imagine being my father, and seeing my job solely as a means to a different end.

But neither does my career have involve all of the passions of my life, or even the most passionate thing in my life. Dad got that part right after all--the rest of one's life matters, too.


Living Almost Large said...

Tonight DH and I just talked about this. My DH and I are in our 20s, and what we said? This economy, this job prospects are not the same as our parents.

There is nothing we can do about it. Economy has changed so much that I doubt we'd be able to find jobs with pensions/benefits our parents have. Even government jobs don't have the same benefits, it's been changed.

How do I know? My mom tells me. She calls it civil servant reform.

So even if I worked for the state like her and loved my job, I wouldn't be able to retire at 55 with the same benefits as her. It DOESN'T exist.

So while I do believe you should love what you do, I don't think you can compare a younger generation with people in their 50s+. They had different opportunities, different economy and treatment by companies.

Maybe I'm wrong, but when you can work the same job as your parent but not get the same benefits, it changes the WHOLE ballgame of how you approach your job, your choices, etc.

I'm Grace. said...

My father, who was a longshoreman, retired with a fine pension, Social Security and full medical benefits.

I will have Social Security, my 401(K) and Medicare.

It is NOT the same.

My kids may not even have as much as I do. You are right--it's a whole new world out there. But if you are going to spend thirty to forty years working, and if you already know you probably won't be making big bucks, shouldn't you at least love your job?

As I said in my post, my father didn't think so. But I do.

Living Almost Large said...

I think you should like what you do. I agree 100% about it being so different.

But our parents can't expect us do what they did because it's not the same.

Anonymous said...

You are truly a wonderful person. Smart, funny, pragmatic, and your values are in the right place. I am LOVING your blog, and if there were more people out there like you, the world would be much better off.