On Career Crises | The Book of Life
In 1700, in Western Europe, there were some 400 different kinds of jobs you could choose from. Nowadays, there are approximately 500,000. No wonder if we sometimes have a bit of trouble settling on what we might want to do.
It is only in very recent history that we’ve even attempted not just to make money at work, but also – extraordinarily – to be happy there as well.
Our career crises are aggravated by the sense that our talents aren’t real unless
a) they make us money
b) we mine them full time
c) they aren’t just hobbies.
Such dogmas are, at the very least, open to question.
Many of us are still trapped within the career-cage unwittingly created for us by some hasty ignorant choices made by our unknowing 18-year-old selves.
What we want above all is meaningful work – which means in essence: work that either alleviates the suffering or increases the pleasure of other people.
When work feels meaningful, you’d be ready to lay your life down for it in return for a salary roughly equivalent to the minimum wage.
Slowly assemble a portrait of your ideal occupation through an analysis of your envious emotions. Keep an Envy Diary.
People don’t tend to leave jobs because of the pay or even the office politics. They leave when they are no longer learning.
True success might mean, by 50, having returned in key ways to what it was fun to do at five.
Serfdom had ended in Western Europe by the early 15th century. But it continues as a psychological category in our unconscious. Such things can take a few millenia to work themselves through.
There are at least five utterly plausible working selves within each of us. We are multiple selves in vain search of singular identities.
That you haven’t yet found your vocation is no indication that you will never discover it. Even if you are currently seventy-three.
It’s entirely acceptable to have wasted so much time.
Spread a consoling spirit by learning to ask at parties, with gentle melancholy, not ‘what do you do?’ but ‘what do you wish you might have done?’
FOOD FOR THOUGHT (tasks to do if you want ;-)
- Write down 10 jobs that your acquaintances from university are pursuing that you yourself definitely have no interest in. List the reasons why. Start to understand the particularities of your working identity.
- Keep a record of everyone you meet whose job makes you envious.
- Reflect on 10 occupations that might have been plausible but were (psychologically) off the table back home.
- Make a map of how you have got to where you are now in the shape of a river; show tributaries feeding the main current and dams where things got blocked or failed.
- What job is the person doing whom you would most like to see fail? There are clues here.
- Make a list of your fears in relation to work, among them: I won’t earn enough; I will be ridiculed; I will disappoint X; I will be bored; I won’t make a contribution to society; I won’t properly mine my talents. Give each a seriousness score from 1-10.
- Which of these are you – in the end – best at: numbers, words, images, people?
- Not having a plan quickly puts us at the mercy of those who have one.
- To create; To help; To serve; To teach; To design; To build; To earn; Give a score out of 10 to each.
- Email seven friends and tell them you are taking part in an experiment which forces you to ask them what five jobs they believe you might be suited to other than the one you’re currently pursuing.
- Every successful business is at heart an attempt to solve someone’s problem: what are – for you – mankind’s most interesting problems?