A sitcom television show (perhaps this was on a Seinfeld episode) once marveled that it was amazing that the universe contained hundreds of thousands of different types of jobs, and yet there was someone out there willing to fill every different one.
This sounds pretty level-headed coming out of the mouth of a comedian. But in the real world, the odds are against you. It has been long reported that our feelings about our jobs are extremely negative, overall. In a 2013 survey conducted by Gallup, 70 percent of 250,000 people interviewed – including part time and full time workers – said they hated their jobs. Only 30 percent said they actually enjoyed their jobs and their bosses, according to the Daily News.
My memory says that the figure is much larger than that. I have seen polls that say 90 percent of workers hate what they do for a living.
There are obvious reasons this is true. There are more jobs at the bottom of the pyramid than there are at the top and many of those at the top of the income ladder are there because they are vigorously pursing what they like to do – professional athletes, doctors, artists, rock stars and the like – even corporate executives enjoy the power and prestige of their jobs, not to mention the perks and the six-digit salaries.
This leaves out the factory workers, cab drivers, waiters and waitresses, office assistance, laborers and the like who are allowed little creativity in their working day. At least service workers enjoy the variety of people they deal with. But some people just lift the same 50 pounds all day long or listen to the same machine, punching out rivets by the hour. You can see why so many are dissatisfied at work.
How do you turn that around? There are, basically, two types of soul-searching. One type involves taking standardized tests and following their lead to an enjoyable career. The other entails searching your heart and living out some experiences to test yourself.
There are ways to jump-start the process. Online job listings are useful not only for the possibility of landing employment, but as a source of job lists that can get your imagination in gear. Sometimes we are stuck, because we never knew that there was a job as a mural painter for a municipality or a research assistant in a fascinating field at a University. If you’re in a rut, sometimes you need a jarring moment to bring yourself out of it.
Are you brave enough to move? There are jobs in Hawaii that do not exist in Boston, Massachusetts. There are jobs in Boston that are unheard of in Honolulu. In the age of fast internet and mobile smartphones, a good job resource can give you listings from around your local city, your state and well beyond.
Do you vent about your job? Have you ever tried actually listening to your venting and realizing that the words have meaning?
Here are some of the most common and potentially profound venting that we speak or hear on a daily basis. “My job has no intrinsic value to me – I just do it for the paycheck.” Obviously, that person should explore what really makes them tick. “I am not living up to my potential.” This vent tells you that you may have waited for a promotion too long. It might be time to find another company with a more challenging opportunity.
“I don’t feel in control.” Let’s face it, you might have a good boss (great!) or a bad one, but if it’s the latter, there isn’t much you can do about it most of the time. Maybe it’s time to work for yourself. (Don’t bet on finding a better boss. Most bosses are ill suited to the authority granted them.)
“I work too hard for what I’m getting out of it.” This might suggest meaning in your life is found at home, with friends, or on weekends when you get into the garage and live out your fantasy as a rock star. Maybe you just need to discipline your hours and get home earlier.
The truth is for many of us, work will never get much past the point of something we marginally enjoy. But think of a mountaineer who lives to climb tall peaks and for whom work is just a means to an ends – something that allows him or her to afford what they love.
Yes, there are not many jobs as mountaineering guides. And how many musicians work in banks, but use their jobs to keep what they love alive?
There is a valuable truth in the concept of “Do what you want and the money will follow,” but sometimes that just will not pay the bills. Do some more soul searching or do something intolerable all the more to salt away money for what you want to do. After all, life is not a sitcom and not everybody gets to be a comedian.