02-08-10 - Happy Jobs

The standard trite advice for youngsters considering various jobs is "do what you love" and "follow your passion" and "forget the naysayers and the people who want you to be practical".

What a load of poppycock.

The reality is that pursuing what you love is of marginal value at best, and is harmful at worst. Many people like myself find that going to work in something you love (video games) strips all the joy out of that thing and in fact removes something positive from your life. Usually doing "what you love" means going into a crowded field where lots of other people also want to work, which means you will have trouble getting a decent job and decent pay.

What actually matters to happiness in the workplace ?

1. Choose a job you can be very good at. There's just massive benefit to being one of the best in the world at something, or having a talent that's desirable or unusual. You don't want to be an easily replacable worker, because then you can be treated like this. This does not mean you have to be some superman, however. You could specialize in something that most other people don't want to do. Or you can get some licensing that makes you rare (like a crane operator or underwater welder).

2. Choose a job that doesn't tie you to a specific company or geographical location. Avoid jobs where there's basically just one employer in that field, or where all the companies are in the same city. Your power in controlling your life comes from the ability to move where you want to live, or change jobs if your employer treats you badly. You never know when something will go sour with a certain employer or you may have to or want to move for some reason.

3. Choose a job where the working conditions are pleasant. This means the physical environment of the office, the hours you have to keep, who your coworkers are. All of this is way more important than what you actually do for the work. A huge factor in this is the aforementioned freedom to choose from multiple employers - you don't want to be stuck having to accept the one job you can get, freedom to choose lets you pick an enjoyable place to be.

4. Choose a job with flexibility. This may vary for others, but for me the flexibility to work what hours I want, take vacation when I want, etc. is massive. Generally this means picking a job where you are judged by delivering some work product, not just putting in hours each day. Then you can choose your own path to make that work product. Obviously this could be software, but the same goes for custom bicycle frame builders, web site designers, etc. anyone who's running their own business or an independent contractor or just in a good employer situation where they give you product deadlines instead of work hours.

5. Choose a job with a pathway for advancement or a way to stand out.

6. etc... you get the idea

The important thing is freedom and power, not doing something you're passionate about. Passion is for love making and cattle. This is work.


castano said...

Something that I've realized after leaving the corporation that I used to work for is that I'm much happier now. In terms of working conditions, flexibility and the actual kind of job nothing has changed much.

However, disconnecting from the corporate culture makes a huge difference. The excessive emphasis on competition, on winning, on profits, on being exceptional, is nothing more than a promotion of greed, hate, and anger. These were the real core values at work. Of course, this is never said explicitly, but the values are communicated without being spoken.

When someone questions them, he's faced with ridicule and is regarded as naive, impractical, or sentimental, that is, unprofessional. One quickly learns to follow the group and not question the moral stands of what he does. The consequence is that employees make the corporate values their own and as a result people try to seek their personal happiness blindly pursuing the corporate goals.

I was of course perfectly aware of all that, but in order to succeed in the corporate culture and not miss career advancement opportunities, you have to subdue to it. So, I guess fell into the trap anyway.

Tom Forsyth said...

> The excessive emphasis on competition, on winning, on profits, on being exceptional, is nothing more than a promotion of greed, hate, and anger. These were the real core values at work.

I honestly think this is a symptom of the corporation in question. They are somewhat renowned for it in fact. Some corps are just like that. By contrast, in my (even larger) corporation, I find it frustratingly the opposite - some people are just not focussed enough - they're content to waft along for decades at a time and just eat up oxygen achieving nothing but a paycheck. I don't understand how people can spend 50 hours a week on something and yet not give a shit about whether it works or not. I guess the answer is that you don't actually work on it, you work at looking like you work on it. Depressing.

ryg said...

Of course the platitudes are wrong; reflection is not, generally, well-represented in common wisdom. And if you've never reflected on any of your decision-making processes, "go on if you have a good reason that others don't get" is indistinguishable from "go on even if everyone tells you not to".

Some passion about what you're doing is a good thing; the alternative is spending half of your waking time doing something you just don't give a damn about. I've been there: Germany still has conscription; I wasn't in the military, but I did spend close to a year working in a weird run-down public institution. There's other factors at work (obviously, being conscripted is about as non-free as it can get), but the main thing is that it ends up being completely unrewarding. Even if you do a great job, it's a great job you don't give a shit about. It drags you down, it drags the people you have to work with down, and it teaches you to do just enough to not get in trouble, which is a dangerous state of mind to be in for a long stretch of time. It takes something out of you.

Passion is good; it makes the good parts of your job a far more fulfilling experience, and the bad parts far easier to slog through.

Love, though... that kind of emotional investment in your job is excessive, and will most likely lead to poor decision-making.

billyzelsnack said...

If I was to start over I'd be a career postal carrier. The kind that walks around all day instead of driving.

cbloom said...

"If I was to start over I'd be a career postal carrier. The kind that walks around all day instead of driving."

I actually semi-seriously considered that during my unemployed "quarter life crisis" period. I went so far as talking to a few different postmen about it (mainly on postmen newsgroups on the internet). They discouraged me, for a few reasons :

1. The jobs in the good weather locations (Hawaii, California) are really hard to get and reserved for people with connections or seniority. A newbie would have to work in a processing plant or walk the beat in Minnesotta or some shit.

2. Apparently the mail walkers develop bad backs from carrying heavy mail bags. I dunno if this is any worse than what computers do to you though.

Anyway, I agree that something simple that involves being out doors and getting some exercise (but not real manual labor), and a little bit of social contact (but not being beholded to a customer or serving someone) with randoms is the ideal.

old rants