Finding a career that offers some level of job and income security is the normal priority for most people looking for work. With the economy and the job market teetering on the edge, that seems to make a lot of sense. But I would take the opposite position – that you must find work that you like, and make that your priority.
You’re going to work all your life, so you need to like what you do
Unless you’re independently wealthy – in which case a career consideration is a moot point – work is going to be your main “thing” for the rest of your life. If you are choosing a career, you can either choose to enjoy your life or to simply endure it – as a result of the work that you decide to do. That’s not an exaggeration either. The degree to which you actually enjoy the work you do will be a major factor in determining your level of happiness throughout your life.
And despite all of the fanfare surrounding retirement planning, and the promise of the golden retirement at age 65, or 50, or even 35 – I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the reality is that very few people will enjoy that type of retirement in the future. Relatively few will enjoy the traditional full retirement, being forced into semi retirement instead. And many more will find that retirement won’t be an option at all.
But here’s the good news: If you like the work that you do, retirement won’t be nearly as important.
There are no more risk-free careers
The reasons why people ignore personal preference is often because they are singularly focused on the illusion of security, and the hope of high income. But here are two realities that are inescapable:
- There is no more job security, and
- You’re much more likely to earn more money if you’re doing what you actually like.
It’s sad but true that there really are no more risk-free careers. In nearly any field you can think of, jobs are being replaced either by advances in technology or off-shoring of labor provided by cheaper foreign markets. Even the once sacrosanct healthcare field is now threatened by both healthcare reform, and by the increasing lack of affordability.
Once you embrace the idea that there truly is no more job or career security, you clear the way for yourself up to do the kind of work you really want to.
Some fields really are easier than others
In my lifetime of multiple careers I’ve discovered that some fields really are easier than others. To give you an example, I started out in the mortgage business. The industry was a complete wreck from the very beginning. I remember hearing multiple times and at multiple companies that the problem was “growing pains”. That one went on for years, even when the industry was contracting.
The industry is also notorious for its complexity. Fundamentally, the captains of the industry desperately hoped to turn it into an in-and-out service, in the image of fast food restaurants and bank ATMs. It was never going to happen.
Mortgages require input by multiple parties, back-and-forth negotiations, and legal recording – among other complications – that make the in-and-out concept a complete fantasy. Industry leaders wasted a lot of time, money, and human capital trying to create a McMortgages model that was never going to happen.
The bottom line: the mortgage industry was, is, and probably always will be complex and dysfunctional. I’ve been at companies that are the same way. The “temporary” problems they suffer were there before you arrive, and they’ll be there after your gone. Thinking that you can “wait it out” is mostly a fool’s game.
What am I trying to say? If you are currently in a job or industry that is complex and dysfunctional, don’t expect it to change. The only salvation will come the day you decide to get out can start doing work you actually like.
Whether we like it or not, change only comes when we decide to make it happen. Sitting around waiting for the nameless, faceless “they” (as in, they need to do this, or they need to do that) to do something is a waste of our limited time in this life.
My experience doing work I like – and the other kind
A career change is always difficult and financially draining. But I found the end result to be completely worth whatever struggles and sacrifices were involved.
Many years ago, I dared to entertain the thought of becoming a writer. I’ve always loved writing, but in the eyes of most people, it’s more of a avocation than a vocation – you know – “That’s nice, but what are you going to do for a living? I made the mistake of buying into that kind of discouragement, and delayed following my passion for more than 15 years.
Finally, when my mortgage career came to an end – and having nowhere “secure” to go – the only thing that was left was my passion. After running away from it for all the usual reasons, it was time to become a writer.
My only regret is that I didn’t do it much sooner.
In a certain sense, I’m not a “real writer” – I’m mostly a blog writer. But that’s a writer too, and one that gets paid on a regular basis.
Yes, it’s scary – but there are plenty of pleasant surprises along the way
I’ve learned a few things along the way to doing the kind of work that I like. As I said earlier, when you do work that you like it doesn’t feel like work. It’ll be nice to retire someday, but if I have to write right up until the day that I drop that’ll be a nice life too!
And something else I found that’s been confirmed by other people in similar journeys…when you get serious about doing work that you like, you’ll find ways to overcome the obstacles that seem to block your path. Facing the unknown is scary – I’m not gonna lie. But the surprise is that there are also unexpected solutions that come up on the way to that scary place.
In the beginning, when revenue from writing was scarce, there were contract jobs that seemed to come out of nowhere. Forensic mortgage underwriting, financial records investigations, and a return to public accounting, a field that I had entered during an earlier mortgage downturn.
Today, I’m blending my independent writing career with contract work in public accounting. Here’s another one of those unexpected outcomes: though accounting is not my passion, the work is far more agreeable to me that either the mortgage business or anything that I had done in those contract jobs.
In my own journey, I’ve learned that you decide what it is you truly want to do, and then set your course and follow it no matter what. If you’re determined, the details – and even those things that you most fear – somehow work themselves out. There’s always a way, even if it doesn’t seem apparent from where you are today. I’d recommend finding work you like as a as a side venture before taking it on full-time. As I said, there’s always a way – especially if you expand your thinking.
Though it’s not fashionable these days, I’m more convinced than ever that there is a strong spiritual component to life that most of us are either only vaguely aware of, or dismiss completely. As a Christian, I’m now certain that God has given each of us certain talents, passions, and preferences, that mean a whole lot more than most of us ever seriously realize. It’s only when we are following those passions that we get into the “zone” where we’re most productive, and where life is most satisfying.
Is there a “little voice inside” that’s been nagging at you to do some other kind of work? Do you ever seriously consider following it? If not, what’s holding you back?