"Just do what you like doing best"

Yesterday I talked to my manager about the fact that I don't really know where I want to take my career and where I imagine myself in 5-10 years. I ended with:"Or am I overthinking this?" And they laughed and admitted that to them, the idea that this amount of planning a career was not what they had ever done. They responded saying:"Personally, I try to have a job with as many aspects in it that I really like to do on a day-to-day basis". They continued:"So my advice would be that if you talk to people about what their job entails, don't talk about the tasks that they do, but about the things they like in their job. That might help you find what kind of job would make you happiest."

This advice sounds so simple and also so in contrast to what I've learned before, which is that you should work hard and in the end you are rewarded with something. That you need to climb a steep ladder to get to where you want to be. Maybe the end results is not the most rewarding thing in a job, but the fact that if you find a job that you like, going home everyday with a smile on your face is the best reward.

If you think about it, this is what we learn at school already: study hard and get rewarded with a high grade. You rarely get to wonder if you like what you are studying. Is this why so many of us seem to struggle with finding what we like doing later in life? Because we have learned to ignore whether we like what we are doing?

5 responses so far

  • Barbara says:

    Funny — I always felt that I have been following that particular advice (to some extent, at least — and not by intention), but also that because of this attitude, my career in academia is not going to be very long lived...

    I do think, though, that without a straight career plan/step ladder you're much more free to take opportunities that come along. And I think that is a good thing, because it can get you to places you could have never seen coming or planned for.

    • babyattachmode says:

      Yes I think I agree. And perhaps also that you're less disappointed when the grand plan doesn't work out when there was no grand plan to begin with.

  • Elliot Rosenthal says:

    I think it takes a long time to figure out what you like. For me. it took 49 excruciating years. It is to say the least a grueling process. And you know- the majority of folks never figure it out.

    I don't know why this is so difficult for modern humans. My best guess is, it is because we live in an artificial environment. Studies of existing "primitive" tribes have shown mental illness is virtually non-existent. They live communally, in rain forests, and spend their days with one another. They are artisans, craftsmen, engineers, shamans, mothers, fathers, hunters & gatherers.

    They are overwhelmingly happy and content their entire lives. And then there's festivus for the restofus. Advanced careers like science & engineering require enormous sacrifices- most of which are time in nature. Time away from the people and things we love. I returned to these in 2002. Eight years later I figured it all out.

    • babyattachmode says:

      Yes this post could definitely be labeled "first world problems". I realize that in a way it is such a luxury to be able to worry about what I like doing versus just surviving (because I'm never entirely sure if primitive people are happy but maybe that is because I cannot imagine living such a brutal life). And indeed now my next (very long) step is to figure out what it is that I like.

      • Elliot Rosenthal says:

        I wonder if it is more brutal than ours. I mention it because the major angst I had for so very long was the time away from family, friends & the activities I love. It nagged at me for 30 yrs.

        In the end, it was worth as I achieved my major life goal. That was incredible, and remains as much.

        I simply though the comparison to primitive peoples was salient at least for my own journey.

        I truly wish you all the best going forward- you deserve it.

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