It seems hypocritical to me that I should even attempt to write a post about loving my job.
If I take a backward glance at my career, I could possibly only give honest advice in one category: job-hopping. Moving onto the next best thing every two years – or less – was my game. The last thing I could ever claim to be were one of those (mildly annoying) people who love what they do. But I do now, and I will tell you how.
But, as with any good story, you need to understand how things were in order to appreciate the happy ending (and hopefully use some of this for yourself).
To take it right back to where it started, I grew up in a place and time that valued a steady professional career. There was no talk in our career-ed classes about finding your passion, or living with purpose. We were not encouraged to job shadow artists or social entrepreneurs. Rather, our schools and parents encouraged us to study the sciences, business, humanities. And so, without deep consideration, I went on to university to study business and law. It would be a “good grounding” for anything I wanted to do in the future (they said).
Luckily, I enjoyed studying and for the most have enjoyed my job(s). Every job has had a good balance of people, challenges and reward to keep me getting up and going into the office each day.
Despite everything being patently perfect, every new role I found myself in almost always played out like this: The first six months were exciting; getting to learn new things and work with new people. The next six were fulfilling; excelling in my new role as I learnt what I needed to be successful. The next six became slightly monotonous but bearable, and usually involved me pursuing a wide variety of extracurricular activities. The last six became outright boring, frustrating and the impetus for change.
Clearly something was wrong. And observing this pattern (most noticeable in the raised brows of family and friends) made me question a lot about myself: was I flaky, spoilt or lazy? Or did I simply lack the staying power that my grandparents and parents had in dollops?
I realise now that it was none of those but rather that I was seeking something in my job that did not exist within myself: passion and purpose.
Although my job was always ‘good enough’ to keep me going back, I believed that life had more to offer. I believed that passion lay ‘out there’ and may be found if I was the proprietor of the proverbial small town bakery (read: health sanctuary, design emporium, organic farm), all of which would give me something to call my own, and give me ample time to sunbathe, go to yoga, and do volunteer work.
This continual questioning and over-analysis almost drove me crazy. I believed that something was wrong, after all almost everyone around me seemed so content with their choice of career. And if advice was to be offered to me, I consumed it at mass: from logotherapy and post-war memoirs, to long phone calls with friends, to Jung and Osho. But time and again I watched with dismay as the pattern repeated.
But then something changed (although it was not a lightbulb moment but a gradual shift). Bear with me.
At first, amidst a very intense and busy period in my fifth job my attitude changed. I realised that I did not need to stay boxed into a certain role but that I could break out and offer more. It was a freedom that simply involved changing my perceptions about the value I could offer.
To make that shift I focused on what I was good at. I once read (see obsession over self-help books above) that to know what your life purpose is, you should look to your strengths. These are the clues to your purpose. It is quite simple!
But to truly understand yourself and your strengths, you need to be authentic.
It takes hard work to chip through the superficial versions of ourselves that we carry around with us. Who are you, truly? What gifts can you offer to yourself? Others? The universe? Answering those questions is step one.
Next, I realised that the people and situations I was faced with were all amazing opportunities to grow and learn. No matter how challenging. This part is really hard and takes time. But sometimes it would have a good outcome and I could positively influence a person or situation. The key is awareness: catching yourself mid-sentence and trying to be more conscious.
Once I knew my strengths and saw the everyday challenges as opportunities for personal growth and positive influence, I had purpose.
All of a sudden my job was more than just a task. Everyday I went to work I got to find passion and purpose. And if I never had the job in the first place, I would not be able to find that. I became grateful.
It does not mean that I do not have hard days and wish I could live out my days on a tropical island. I do! But I realise now, that no matter what my actual job is if I get to approach it consciously, it’s right for me. I stopped looking for the next best thing, for thinking that the change was out there. I started to see what had been in front of me – and inside of me – all along.
To sum up:
Get to know yourself – the authentic you.
Challenge your perceptions about your current situation.
Most importantly recognise that change starts within. Don’t be a victim to your circumstances.
I hope this inspires you to love what you do.