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Bad Advice for Graduating Seniors

March 5, 2009

Bad Advice for Graduating Seniors: Find a job you love!

On the surface this advice seems fine and inspiring, but I really hate hearing it.  Your job shouldn’t kill your soul, but even for those of us who generally like their jobs…. love is  a pretty strong word.  There’s not a job on earth that I would love so much that I’d want to do it 40 hours a week, at least one that would pay me at all.

If I “did what I loved” I’d (currently) go on backpacking/hiking trips, take up some more outdoor stuff, and read/write all the time.   Maybe be a vagabond?  But I’d hate my life because I’d be stressed about the lack of security/stability (and food, because I’d be broke).  I certainly wouldn’t want to attempt to make a career of it, even of travel writing, because it just isn’t in me.

I don’t (currently) have an entrepreneurial spirit, so I tire of advice to start our own businesses doing what we love. That isn’t for everyone.   My passions seem to shift, I like to try a little of this and that.  I don’t have one overarching passion that I want to focus my life on

Better Advice:  Create a Life You Love

There are people for which the two are inseparable, and they will have a miserable life if they can’t do follow their passions in the form of a career.  But there are other ways to have a great life.

I really like keeping my stable (well… stable-ish) career as a foundation of security and mental challenge.  I like that it typically only demands 40 hours a week, and will pay for any class I feel like taking.  While my career isn’t my passion (unless this is a job interview), I generally like it and have a strong desire to succeed in it

Do I love my life?  Well, not always, but often!  Each day, I am working towards creating the life I want as best as I can

Honestly, I probably shouldn’t be going on a camping trip this weekend, but I also know that I can’t put things off until “later”, “when I’m done with school” or “when we have more time”.  If I get an A- (or even a B+!) in my class, it won’t deter me from the life I want, but if I constantly push everything fun until “later”, it will.

Rather than expecting your job to fufill you and make you happy, think about a complete life that will make you happy.

What do you think?

16 Comments leave one →
  1. frowzyboy permalink
    March 5, 2009 7:26 am

    When I was graduating high school my family just told me to get a job, any job, especially a job with benefits of any kind. I looked at how miserable they all were with their great benefits and all the stress their jobs caused them and took a part time job doing something I love instead of a full time one doing whatever else and it’s worked out. The small business I work for has grown and now we’re beginning to talk about offering benefits for employees. I work 35-40 hours a week at something I care about and it worked out for me. I don’t think that’s for everybody. For some people a job is a means, for others it’s an end.

  2. March 5, 2009 8:18 am

    Bravo! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  3. March 5, 2009 9:52 am

    Nicely said! I feel the same way….my job doesn’t make me miserable, but if for some reason I never had to work another day in my life…i wouldn’t keep doing this.

    My boyfriend on the other hand, LOVES what he does, and would do it even if he wasn’t getting paid. Which, incidentally….he’s not (at the moment, although we hope that changes soon, lol). Anyway, I wouldn’t be able to live that kind of life (never knowing where I’ll be in a week, financially), and it doesn’t help that there’s nothing I can think of that makes me feel as passionately as he does about his job.

    Besides, times like these it feels like beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to jobs. However, if you hate talking to people don’t take a job at a call center, but find a middle ground doing something that won’t make you MISERABLE day in day out.

  4. March 5, 2009 9:59 am

    Ugh, thank you. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy to go to work, but if I can find something that doesn’t drain my will to live, I’ll be satisfied. Like you, I have no entrepreneurial inclinations; I like spacecraft and astronomy and it makes more sense to work for a satellite company than to try to build my own.

    I guess I’m lucky because except for my job, I am happy. And if I can still be happy despite the horribleness of my job, that seems like a pretty good deal.

  5. March 5, 2009 10:28 am

    Huh, coworker and I were just talking about this. She was lamenting the fact that she didn’t listen to her dad when he told her, “Look, very very few people actually love their jobs/work. Very few. And sorry, sweetie, you’re not likely to be one of them, so you should go into something that will provide you a stable livelihood and free you up to do the things you do love for fun.”

    Such sensible advice; *my* parents just told me to do whatever made me happy. Kind of wished they’d told me I had to be a doctor or whatever stable profession was the thing, I might actually have listened. At least I’d have a better chance to build financial stability and time to pursue the fun stuff in life, with the potentially miserable job, rather than this definitely miserable job with eh-money. There’s something to be said for pragmatic career choices.

  6. March 5, 2009 11:10 am

    i agree with you. this is something that i’ve been thinking about a lot lately. i don’t love my job, but i don’t hate it, on most days anyway. i don’t have this one, huge stinkin’ passion in my life that i could pursue for money. i’m just beginning to realize that my happiness, my fulfillment, doesn’t have to come from my job. it can come from other areas of my life.

  7. March 5, 2009 11:57 am

    I think that as long as you can say YES to “Am I happy today?” then you’re in good standing no matter what you are dong for work. I used to not agree with “do what you love” for a job, but now that I have one that’s pretty close inline to that, I must admit that it make a crazy difference.

    Also, while young, you can get away with taking on jobs that pay less but make you happier, so personally i wouldn’t discount that advice all the way – but we’re all different 😉

    to be totally honest, the best “Job” I ever had was being a college student!!! i’d give it all up to go again…hahaa…

  8. March 5, 2009 1:16 pm

    Well put.

    I really enjoyed this post.

  9. March 5, 2009 5:00 pm

    Great post, and you said it a lot better than I could. Somewhere I read that 50% of current jobs didn’t even exist 5 years ago (I forget the exact percentage/timeline), which makes it rather hard to decide at age 22 what you want to do for the next 40 years. Don’t get into something you cannot tolerate, but don’t bank your emotional well-being on your career either. I made the mistake of doing that for the first several years of my career. I didn’t start living life until I realized there was a vast world and massive source of happiness which had nothing to do with work, and I’ve never looked back.

  10. March 5, 2009 5:09 pm

    Thanks everyone for the comments!!

  11. March 6, 2009 10:01 pm

    I know this is typically not following “blog ethics,” but speaking of jobs you love…I’m just trying to start my blog and am a graduating senior (in May) – What is the best way to sustain a side income doing so?

    I just wrote an article about pennies…so I figured I’d share with you…feel free to check it out…”Don’t be Lazy, Pick up that Penny!”


  12. March 9, 2009 8:15 pm

    I totally agree! I was just writing about this the other day. I feel lucky that I truly enjoy my job, but I think it’s a mistake when people advise graduates to “follow their dreams” and “be whoever they want to be” and only do something they love.

    That is simplistic advice at best, and often sets up young people to feel frustrated, miserable, and like failures if they don’t love really their job. It can also lead to unnecessary and potentially damaging job-hopping. Even if you eventually find a job you “love” there are usually years of toil and struggle working your way up to it – the idealistic advice-givers usually leave that part out.

    It’s a very upper middle class ideal, anyway, one that simply cannot be implemented by the majority of folks. I mean, if every 20-something tried to do what they loved, we’d have a whole generation of broke wanna-be athletes and musicians and video game testers and writers and beer testers. Do that stuff in your free time (unless you have a true and unique gift of course), but in the meantime, get yourself a job that might actually help you pay off your student loans.

  13. May 5, 2009 11:27 am

    I tried to leave a comment and when I submitted it said “discarded”. Any ideas why?

  14. May 6, 2009 5:28 pm

    I agree that you must create your life. I have used this phrase many times. The key, I believe, is to go after your long term dream with awareness that you must do many things along the way to get there.

    I had several jobs until I found the work I truly enjoy. First a high school Math Teacher for which I was trained. Did that for 3 months. Oh no! Not for me. Then I went into computers and worked in IT for 5+ years.

    Since I was still not content, I sought out a career counsellor. After discussions and tests, she told me that I wasn’t happy because I wanted to be self-employed. I thought you’re crazy! Then I thought …hmmm what if? That was 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back.

    A life without a dream isn’t much of a life. Yet a dream without tangible steps along the way will never be.

    Today I published an add-on blog post to this topic and I welcome your comments on my stories there.

    Warmest wishes,
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach


  1. Passions « Stacking Pennies
  2. Does your passion match your job? « Stacking Pennies

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