The sad reality for most of my friends is that they don’t enjoy their jobs.
It’s clearly a first world problem but lots of them feel like they can’t trade their current income and lifestyle for something they’re truly passionate about. So they carry on. In some cases, for decades. And because they’re doing something they’re not genuinely passionate about, they’re not fully there.
Is a job, just a job?
Their job becomes just that. A job, but no more. It’s a means to an end rather than a passion. So they challenge less, they stop learning and Groundhog Day sets in. Before they know it, their ‘ten years of experience’ ends up becoming one year of experience repeated ten times.
And by the time they’ve worked out that the sacrifice probably wasn’t worth it, their career (and a big part of their life) is over.
Sadly, most humans are wired to behave like this. Most of us instinctively choose familiar over different and easy over hard. It’s true in our jobs, our lives and even our relationships.
And until recently, the worst thing that came from this approach was that we’d end up being a bit miserable.
Avoiding irrelevance in what we do
The world is changing though. In fact it’s changing so quickly that the downside today is potentially a lot worse. Rather than just being miserable, we risk becoming irrelevant.
On a macro level, the same is true of companies. The business world is littered with examples of companies which continued to do the same thing even though the world around them was changing. They failed to realise that customers’ needs were changing, and that power was rightly shifting back to the employees and the customers. By the time these companies woke up and realised things were different, it was too late.
The evolution of business and people
The challenge – for people and for companies – is to keep evolving as they get older. In my experience, there are two ways to achieve this.
The first is to deliberately challenge yourself every few years. It could be a new role within the same company, or a new company altogether. The acid test in choosing this new role is that it should feel daunting. It needs to be a role that you don’t know how to do and where you don’t yet have all the skills. Cheesy as it sounds, this is what makes you grow as a person.
The second, which is far more difficult, is to find a role with purpose. When we find something with meaning, a job normally stops feeling like a job. It’s something we’d want to do even if money was no object. Work life balance stops being something you think about. In fact, you’ll love what you do so much that the harder you work, the happier you’ll be.
I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. As an entrepreneur running a business I set up, both boxes are permanently ticked. It’s 22 years since I set up Octopus and I’m still learning (and failing) at an incredible rate.
I was lucky enough to share some of these learnings on a recent podcast – Jimmy’s jobs of the future. It’s a great series where he interviews people with jobs which are constantly changing, from entrepreneurs to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
If you get a chance to listen, there will hopefully be some learnings in there that you can apply to your own careers.