It’s important to love what you do. Your career is such a large part of your life that committing to anything less than love for it means that you’re going to be spending a lot of time wondering “what-if” and daydreaming about the job across the hall. I don’t mean that everything has to go well with your job all the time and it always has to make you happy, that’s not how love works outside of the movies. It just means that when you’re at work, you should be giving it your everything, your attention, and you should enjoy it most of the time. In fact, I propose that your work life should mirror a healthy relationship.
You start by being infatuated. You’re in a new career with a new company and it’s amazing how well things are done. You overlook a lot of flaws and focus on the good. Maybe the “good” is that it’s better than that tired old job that you used to have that never let you do anything fun, but it’s still good.
That stage is over fairly quick because, let’s face it, it’s still work. You’re understanding though, and as you get to know the company better you put in long hours learning about the company and really getting to know both the company and the activities you like to do.
It’s after this stage that things usually start to get a bit bumpy. Now that you’ve been over the company with a fine toothed comb, there may be some conflict. There are things that you want done one way, but the company suggests should be done another. The little flaws come out and you start to recognize them, but any conflict is usually sorted out quickly. You’re still happy.
As months pass, you know what to expect from the company and you know both the company’s commitment to you and your commitment level to the company. Sometimes there are expectation mismatches, and the company still continues to surprise you from time to time in both good and bad ways. You’ve formed an opinion of how things operate and how the company is going to move. You have a high comfort level in your career.
There are other stages in a relationship, but I think I’ve taken the analogy far enough. At some point along these lines, you start to fight. Not the little fights in the bumpy stage, but the knock-down, drag-out fights that you have when you’re really comfortable with someone. Maybe it’s about huge organizational process changes, or maybe it’s just about the way that your manager greets you when you come in first thing in the morning, but the rose covered glasses are off.
I’ve always felt that a relationship was worth saving, right up until the bad things from the relationship outweighed the good. When I was more often feeling negative than feeling positive, no matter how great the positive was, it was time to move on. I feel the same way about a career. There are so many ways that a career mirrors a typical relationship. From happy, to courting, to healthy, to abusive, to all of the above, your career is such a large part of your life that the commitment you put in may even impact your other relationships.
When you went to your friends in high school, your cronies in college, or your best friend in adulthood looking for relationship advice they always asked the same set of questions: Does it make you happy? How happy? Does the good outweigh the bad? Is it really worth it? It’s a conversation anyone who’s been in a relationship has had and if you’re reading this and saying “not me” then just wait, it’s coming. The same applies to our careers. How happy does your career make you?
Because if your career doesn’t make you happy then you’re going to be spending a lot of time looking at other options and wishing you were pursuing those. It’s not fair to your company, but it’s also not fair to you. When you love your job, you’re all-in. You’re committed and the quality of your work life is going to improve because you enjoy what you’re doing. It’s not going to feel like a treadmill of day-to-day frustrations, it’s going to feel like a growing bond.
There are a million excuses not to leave the relationship you’re in, even when you’re in a bad relationship. But it all usually comes down to one simple question when your friends are gathered around helping you. So, to ask the simplest of relationship questions that is never simple, do you love your job?