Does the Idea of Having One Job Forever Make You Want to Hang Yourself?

Does the Idea of Having One Job Forever Make You Want to Hang Yourself?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Featured, Self-Employment

I’ve spent most of my life searching for that dream job- the one that would make me happy and fulfilled forever.

I used to imagine myself in various positions. Sometimes I’d try them out, other times I’d talk to someone in the profession to see what the day-to-day reality was like. But no matter how interesting they looked, I just knew that something would inevitably happen a few months or maybe a year in…

I’d get bored.

I know from experience that jumping around between interests is something I do regularly- every few years or so. It’s a pattern. I get really curious about something and I dive in with almost infectious enthusiasm. I work hard till I’ve reached a certain level of mastery and then I lose interest and move on to the next thing.

This used to worry me. I would stumble onto something new and think: maybe this is it, maybe this is the thing I’ve been looking for, the thing I’m meant to do! But sure enough, the pattern would continue.

‘Conventional Wisdom’ Tells Us that Boredom Should be Endured

People really do seem to believe that working an unsatisfying job is simply something that we all just have to deal with- that it’s part of life. I’ve heard things like: “no job can be all fun all the time,” and “we all have to do things we don’t like sometimes”.

But why? Why??? Maybe this is radical of me, but I do not believe that we should be required to spend the majority of our time here doing boring, menial work that doesn’t matter to us. It’s a complete waste of time. Time! Which is the one thing we cannot get back.

Am I Really Just Self-Sabotaging?

Getting back to my pattern of enthusiasm followed by boredom… What is that? Do I secretly believe myself to be ‘unworthy of happiness’?

I’m sure others have thought it. I mean, I’ve gotten shocked and pitying looks from people when I explain how after three years of law school, I’m not planning on doing the bar or being a lawyer… ever.

But you know what? I’m okay with that because I’m super excited for my next adventure. I know that I’m not self-sabotaging. You know what I’m doing? I’m listening to myself.

It might not look like it to the outside world, but I have indeed completed something. In fact, I got precisely what I had come for: a certain level of mastery.

And that’s what drives me. I don’t need to pursue one job for life. I feel fulfilled simply by tackling a new challenge and becoming proficient at it. That’s all I need. What drives me is the challenge of mastering something new. Once that’s gone, I have no further reason to stick around.

And you know what’s cool? Being proficient at many different things has it’s benefits. Even just running Puttylike, I find myself using most of the skills I’ve acquired from jumping around over the last ten years. I get to write, do web and graphic design, audio production (as I work on my forthcoming podcast), and even lawyerly type things like registering Puttylike as a business entity or applying for a trademark.

We Should Listen to Our Bodies

Maybe boredom a purpose. Maybe it’s our body’s way of warning us that we’re in danger. Maybe when we get that feeling that it’s time to MOVE, we should listen to ourselves.

Perhaps this pattern of jumping from interest to interest is not some sort of shortcoming, but a gift. I mean, we get to experience so many different things! How wonderful.

Chris Guillebeau says that “the time to leave the best job in the world is right before you get tired of it”.

And I agree. Lets stop perceiving the need to change direction as a shortcoming because it’s actually a really awesome trait to have.

How Does This Work in the ‘Real World’?

Okay, so people are probably thinking: should I just warn my boss when he hires me that I will be quitting soon?

Well, no. You could just quit a year or two in. Or you could look for short term contracts or ‘opportunity jobs’ with deadlines, like teaching English overseas.

But this is precisely why I advocate self-employment and unconventional lifestyle design. I’ll be delving more into freelancing and entrepreneurship in future posts. I mean, how amazing would it be to create your own dream job for yourself again and again? Yup. Pretty freakin’ amazing.

29 Comments

  1. Barbara Sher says:

    Studies show that boredom should not be endured; it’s bad for the brain, especially in young people. And you don’t have to pick the job you’ll love for the rest of your life for a lot of reasons. The best one is this: if you’re smart you love to learn. Once you learn something, it’s time to go. Or you can teach it and then go. How do you find that job? You look for an ‘A’ boss, and you avoid a B boss. Not easy, I know, but worth it. An A boss hires A+ people and lets them fly. They make him look good. A ‘B’ boss hires ‘C’ people because he can’t stand the competition.

    Head over to amazon.com and look at the reader’s comments for Refuse to Choose. I’m not pitching the book. Just reading the reviews will make you realize there’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, you’re a very lucky person.

    • Emilie says:

      Barbara, hi! Wow, I’m actually kind of honoured that you wound up on my site… I have indeed read Refuse to Choose. I ordered it a few weeks after launching Puttylike when I was doing some research into what else was out there. I’ve actually been meaning to email you… Maybe I’ll do that now. :)

      Really good point about A bosses. It’s definitely way better to have a boss who recognizes your abilities and gives you freedom. From what my friends who are on the job hunt tell me though, I get the sense that a lot of people don’t feel like they can afford to shop around for an A boss right now. They just take whatever they can get. Hopefully that’ll change. (My personal tastes do still tend to run toward self-employment though.)

  2. Dinneen says:

    I found this post via a tweet from Barbara Sher — yeah, both she and her books are great!

    I LOVE this post and something I can really relate to. I’ve done a lot of cool and interesting things in my life….and though some people envied it, others quietly gave me that “oh, when are you going to get ON with your life” kinda look. Like when was I going to grow up and finish something?!

    But I’ve finished many things….business school, nutrition school, masters degree and yes jobs. I listened to myself when it was time to go. I’ve left jobs when they were ‘easy & safe’ yet looked really good. But the challenge and/or fun was no longer there.

    I gave up job opportunities (more than one!) that looked good on paper, probably would have been nice gigs for a bit — but it just didn’t feel right at the time. So I turned them down.

    Geez, I could write a book on it — yet Barbara Sher has done it with Refuse to Choose!

    So thanks for this post. We are smart — we love challenges — and because we don’t follow the ‘norm’ doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong. Like you outlined, we’re doing things right!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Dinneen, that’s great that you listen to yourself and leave when it’s time to go. And see, look how many cool things you’ve gotten to experience! Also interesting point about passing up opportunities that ‘look good on paper’. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking myself ‘why’ a lot. As in, am I making this decision because other people will approve or am I making it because it’s something that I ACTUALLY want.

      Good stuff. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Claire says:

    Hey Emilie,

    I love this, it’s a summary of the development of my thinking over the last year or so, so thank you!

    Your thoughts resonated with me partly because I did a law degree and have no plan to become a lawyer. People think I am mad (I’ve been in a job interview where the first question was ‘So why aren’t you a lawyer?’ which just convinced me that they weren’t the type of company I wanted to work for!

    A little add on to what you were saying about experiencing different things. It makes you flexible, adaptable and useful in helping an organisation change. Just the fact of having been in different environments lets you see other ways of doing things and a A boss will let you share your thoughts on how to make things better.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Claire,

      I know exactly what you’re talking about in terms of the law stuff! All last year, my classmates were doing recruitment, applying for jobs all over the country and talking non-stop about this firm and that firm… Meanwhile I was writing scripts and casting for a web series my friend and I were thinking of producing. Haha… I sort of learned not to talk about my plans too much with the hardcore law students, because most of them didn’t get it at all. It was like the idea that we could actually be something OTHER THAN a lawyer was completely outside their reality.

      But you know, I’ve heard story after story of people working at law firms for five years and then quitting because they were so unhappy. I figure, why waste five years, if I already know that it’s not what I want?

  4. jim fitzhugh says:

    I think young people believe they should be the boss within one year of taking a job. They don’t know much and have no experience. When they don’t get promoted to the top immediately they leave expecting more. This process repeats itself over and over until they are 35 and their resume is screwed up. My suggestion is research your first job before you take it. Make that job awesome which you should be able to do if you are all that you think you are. Remember you are nothing when you start out and no one owes you anythingp

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks for the comment Jim. I agree that research is a really good idea before taking a new job. It certainly takes time to work your way up and if you know for sure that that particular position is what you want, then I don’t think it’s nearly as painful to “pay your dues”.

      The problem that I think many of us face is that there are a lot of different things we want to try. Committing to doing grunt work for years before we get to experience just one of those things can feel quite painful. I also personally think that it’s ok to believe in yourself and your abilities. I agree with Barbara above when she said that a smart boss will encourage you to use your talents right from the get go.

  5. Mars Dorian says:

    Hey Emilie,

    listening to your body is ESSENTIAL. And in today’s age, it has become easier than ever to be your own boss and create your own dream job.
    It’s all about courage, and taking the step into uncertainty.

    Luv the creative fire here :)

  6. Ben says:

    What if I like my job and want to continue working at it? Does it make me a boring, uninteresting, useless individual?

    I thought “trying to be cool” was something considered really lame according to one of your posts.

    • Emilie says:

      Of course not, Ben! If you like your job, that’s awesome. I was just writing about my own experience. We should all do what works for us… If you’re happy, then that’s all that matters.

  7. Ann Ronan says:

    Right on Emilie!

    We’re wired to expand and grow and self employment offers many of us the best way to do that. One job for life isn’t “normal”.

    A Bureau of Labor report published September 2010 looked at the number of jobs that people born in the years 1957 to 1964 had from age 18 to age 44. They had an average of 11 jobs from ages 18 to 44.

    So there’s no need to fear about making the “right” career choice -you’re going to make many of them!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Ann,

      Interesting stats! Thanks for sharing those. And I agree, there truly is a misconception out there that the career choices we make in our early 20s are permanent. Couldn’t be further from the truth.

      Thanks for the comment!

  8. Hey Emilie!

    Awesome post you’ve got here. The both of us truly understand and agree with what you’ve said here. It’s the thought that there’s something else to learn and look forward to that keeps us going.

    Tariq has been through so many jobs as well. Ranging from practising Law to being a professional photographer. Now he’s trying to create his own dream job and tap into several income streams and experiences. I on the other hand, just jumped from doing biotechnology in uni to teaching english. Now I’ve also joined Tariq in creating our dream job together.

    We especially like the part about our bodies giving clues to us. After all there’s a reason why we’re made with so many different skills implanted in us and a great sense of curiosity.

    We look forward to reading more from you! Thanks for the article!

    Shaheera

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Shaheera and Tariq,

      It sounds like you guys are a wildly varied and talented duo! It’s so cool that you’re just going for it– following your heart through life and finding ways to incorporate your various interests into your lives. I love that.

      Thanks for the lovely comment and encouragement!

  9. Great post, Emilie! I completely empathize with you, as someone else who has a lot of creative energy and needs to feel intellectually stimulated in order to thrive.

    My sense is that many people are like this, but fear is what stops most of us from taking that leap toward livelihood that better uses all our gifts. A few years ago I was laid off from my job, and now I see it as one of the best things that ever happened to me. I didn’t have time to sink into my fears, I had to think on my feet and create a new way of bringing in some income.

    The past three years haven’t always been easy, but I’ve always felt challenged and ‘awake,’ in the biggest sense of the word.

    And, it’s interesting we live in times when so many external systems are falling apart, like our economy. The world we live in is changing and I believe it will become much more mainstream for people to be creating their livelihood rather than relying on big companies to employ them. I hope through blogs like yours and mine we can help shepherd people to that new way of living and decrease the fear around this transition.

    Thanks again for the great post! I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Maia,

      It’s so interesting how many people who are now self-employed view getting laid off as one of the best things to happen to them. Jonathan Mead over at illuminatedmind.net talks about how you have to be “hungry”. I think when there are no other options, that’s when we step up and make things happen. And you’re right, when things are comfy (even though possibly unsatisfying), there’s less of an impetus to change your life. It’s way scarier when it’s choice, instead of something forced upon you.

      I hope you’re right about more people creating their own opportunities. I think that would be so fantastic! It irritates the hell out of me when I see a friend applying for jobs just because they “should”, when I know their heart isn’t in it.

      Thanks for the comment Maia. Love what you’re doing over at The Liberated Life Project!

  10. Martin says:

    I think this is great. I admire your ability to listen to yourself like that. I am doing it more, yet I have died many slow deaths staying around in jobs waaaaaay past the boredumb, for, as you said, that is what we are taught.

    I love your attitude of making something great with how you are, rather than try and force yourself in a place you don’t.

    It reminds me of the ugly duckling.

    I had thought that of myself here and there and then dismissed it, for I wasn’t able to connect with the fellow robots, and felt, if I can’t even connect with these people that way, how will I ever connect with amazing exciting inspired people, well, now I know that answer :)

  11. emily says:

    Wow! I thought I was the only one. I feel like in todays society you are judged at how long you stay with the same job…its supposed to show stability. I think that works for some because they never question it, they don’t know they have other options. The few lucky ones are the ones that go against todays society and realize they do have a choice. I chose, life is too short, why not experience and learn as much as possible. I have done everything from a being a make up artist to a fireman, to a vet tech,and oh yes, a carni. I look at it this way, if my life was a book, it would be interesting.

  12. Patricia says:

    I know I’m coming to this post late, but I just found out about you from the conference call today with Jonathan Meade. I’m speechless basically. I can’t believe I’ve found “people like me”… All my life I’ve had to battle not feeling good about myself for just these above reasons. Constantly wondering what was wrong with me. Now I actually may find a little support at 57 years of age?
    I’ve made an income at many creative endeavors in life. I’ve been a musician/vocalist, a graphic designer, a chef, worked in the film industry, been a horse caretaker, a gas station attendant, a maid, a dishwasher, a wanderer… well you get the picture….and now….? Photography. People, even good friends say the same things about me. “When are you going to settle down, grow up, etc.” I’m very glad to have found you today.

  13. Christine says:

    Yours words are a breathe of fresh air. My whole life I have started things and have been seen to ‘not finish anything’. I just want to move oin to the next idea. The next project. Wow, how inpisring that thre is a whole community out there. A whole movement, no less. Hello World – I am no longer the failure I thought I was. I am like y’all – normal :):):):) (thats many happy faces)

  14. pervheiz says:

    Wow! You’ve put word to word to thoughts which hv been in my mind like a splinter.. always burning.. always questioning. My simple thinking is this.. when i am at the end of my career and look back at all the things i ve done and achieved would i be falling short? Will it matter how i did a particular thing for so long or so less? Wouldn’t it be great if i could fill the pages of my life with as enduring, exhilarating and fascinating things as possible!

  15. Stacy says:

    Thank you so much for helping me explain me! My sweetheart is a totally wonderful, driven man. He’s basically had one career path his entire life and he has loved it! He truly doesn’t understand where I come from when I say “I don’t want a corporate job” or “the last thing I want to do for the next 8 years is one job for one company, doing the same thing over and over – please just kill me now if I really have to do that”, etc… ((sigh!))

    I’ve been talking non-stop about what I’ve been reading and how it relates to me so well! I can justify every change, move, time I quit, divorce, etc. but the reality is that it just wasn’t working for me (or my kids = extension of me) so I had to make a change. I’m so tired of trying to explain to those who truly don’t! Thank you for giving us a place to feel at accepted!

  16. Alice says:

    Thanks for being on the same wavelength as me :)

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