I quit my job because it wasn’t making me happy. I could see that around me more and more people enjoyed (and in some cases even loved) their work. As I set my sights on finding work that I loved, one question continued to bother me. Was I really entitled to find work that I loved?
The game is changing
In the early 1900s it was incredibly rare to love your job. A large proportion of the western population were employed in blue-collar, manual jobs. The majority of these blue-collar jobs were formulaic, with clear right answers (and wrong answers) and limited opportunity for creativity. According to Daniel Pink’s book Drive, many of the remaining white collar jobs were also fairly formulaic. There was little chance to achieve autonomy, with the primary focus simply being on clocking in and out.
As the 20th century wore on, the job market changed. White collar jobs started to represent an increasingly larger percentage of the total jobs available in western economies. Developments in our understanding of motivation led to increased job flexibility, greater autonomy and an increased sense of purpose. It started to become more common to enjoy (or perhaps even love) your work.
Although the changes that the job market underwent in the 20th century were significant, the 21st century has seen far more rapid and fundamental development. Fewer and fewer formulaic jobs are now available as outsourcing and automation price them out of the market. Remote working has allowed employees to have far greater autonomy, whilst the development of the internet has led to a huge boom in self-employment and entrepreneurship. The potential for loving your work has moved from being a privilege enjoyed only by the lucky few to a realistic possibility for many people.
We work so that we can live. If your job sustains a life full of happiness, perhaps it doesn’t matter if you never experience true enjoyment whilst at work. Perhaps the many other benefits that a job can bring – financial security, stability, social status – make up for a lack of love for the job itself.
Choosing a job is deeply personal. For me it’s clear that finding work that I truly love needs to be a top priority.
If I manage to spend even a fraction of my future working life doing work that I love, I’ll have been incredibly privileged. The majority of people still aren’t that lucky. The recent changes in the job market have made finding work that you love more achievable, but still far from an entitlement.
Nonetheless, there are many great opportunities available to us. Rather than looking at previous generations and feeling guilty for wanting more than they could ever have, recognise that the game has changed since then. If you’re prepared to work with passion and dedication, work that you love can become a reality.
Not entitled, but hopeful.
Also published on Medium.