When Prospective Employers Want Your Full Attention… And Also Your Soul?!

When Prospective Employers Want Your Full Attention… And Also Your Soul?!

Written by Neil Hughes

Topics: Work

“We desire your undivided passion. We want all of your focus. We expect you to give everything for the role and for our business.”

This is from an actual job advertisement I came across recently.

I was looking for part-time work to fit in alongside my existing projects, and it felt as if every other advert requested I include my eternal soul alongside my resumé in the application.

My frustration grew. I had time and skills I was keen to offer, but I wanted to find somewhere which would support me as a whole person. And I found myself wondering… who—multipotentialite or not—is even capable of what they’re asking for?

The closest I ever get to giving undivided, unquestioning passion to anything is when I’m cheering on the objectively-greatest sports team in the world. But even that only lasts for 90 minutes at a time. Deep down, I’m aware that the rest of my life is also important and worthy of my energy.

In all of human experience, does anything ever receive total passion, focus and time? So why is “we expect you to give everything” considered a reasonable request for a job?!

What is a job for?

Recently I’ve seen multiple variations of the same joke on social media:

“Why do you want this job?”

“I need money to pay for food for my family.”

We’re so conditioned into pretending jobs are more than this that the mere idea of somebody being truthful is considered hilariously shocking.

Of course, some jobs are passionate vocations. But many jobs, for many people, are a means to an end. People want to trade away their time and skills in return for some money.

And what could be fairer than that?

Unaligned Incentives

Of course, from the point of view of employers, demanding an employee’s “full attention” makes perfect sense.

The ideal employee would be born with the company logo carved into their heart, with a correspondingly deep passion for earning money for the business.

This incentivizes the company to filter out the least passionate employees, which in turn incentivizes prospective workers to pretend their “mild interest in this area” is “wild passion for supply chain integration.” While this state of affairs is logical, it creates a system which feels inhuman.

Presumably, most companies know this. They realize nobody is born with a desperate need to synergize accounting practices across legislative divides, and they don’t literally mean it when they ask for “undivided” passion in their advertisements.

In other words, while an advert might say “we demand your all,” that may just be marketing speak for “we expect you to do a great job”—which is absolutely reasonable and fair.

This charade is partly a societal game we play to be polite, like pretending nobody actually wants the last chocolate in the box.

Which suggests a question… can’t we all simply be honest with each other? And I believe the answer is “yes.”

It’s All a Spectrum

Some employers are against passion projects, and they mean every word they say. (I saw an advert which literally said “we love passion, but if you have other projects in your life, this job isn’t for you.” Yikes.)

It’s up to you whether that sounds like a great deal.

Some employers say “we want your eternal soul” in their ads, but they mean “do a great job and obviously we’re all human here, so we’ll cut you some slack”.

It’s up to you whether that sounds like a great deal—or whether you can only work for people who say exactly what they mean. This is difficult to determine from outside, but during the application and interview process you can hopefully get a sense of the company culture.

You might look for clues that they’re pro-side-hustle, or that they see passion projects as part of the package. Some employers are happy to support your other interests, and they make this clear from their job advertisements onward. In the past I’ve been lucky with my employers, as they happened to fall into this category. But next time I look for jobs, I’ll seek confirmation that the company see employees with outside passions as an advantage, not a detriment.

Questions to Explore for a Happy Job Hunt

If you know in advance what you’re willing to sacrifice for the right job, then you’ll know immediately when you come across the wrong job. These questions might help you recognize the potential dream jobs amidst the soul-swallowing blunders:

1. Do you want to devote yourself to a job? This is a perfectly reasonable desire—even some multipods enjoy all-consuming jobs, and happily pursue other interests during free time.

2. What level of support for your outside passions and interests do you want—or could tolerate—from an employer? Active support? Complete disinterest? Direct hostility?

3. What would it take for you to give up another passion for a job if requested? For example:
          • Nothing?
          • Tons of money?
          • Travel options?
          • And so on…

4. Would it be okay if a new job demanded all your time and energy for a week? A month? A year? A decade?

These answers have been different for me at different times of my life. I know I prefer employers who encourage outside interests—but there are jobs for which I would happily give up my other passions—at least for a while.

If you’re looking for work, I hope these thoughts help you to find a fantastic job which meets all your needs. And, certainly, one which allows you to keep your soul.

Your Turn

Do your employers support your other passions? Or have you ever encouraged them to do so? Share your thoughts and stories with the community in the comments.

Want some help from other multipotentialites as you navigate your career? Come check out our awesome community of multipods:

neil_2017_2Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at enhughesiasm.com, his mental health blog, and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.


  1. Maryske says:

    I’m all for being honest with each other. Those job ads you quoted are simply insane; whenever I come across something like that, I just raise my eyebrows and move on. Wouldn’t want to work for a company like that – ever.

    It’s just a modern version of slavery.

  2. Sarah says:

    I have been having this exact problem! Trying to find a part time job to fit in amongst my other things, but part-time jobs seem to be “4 week rotating roster” so you cant actually schedule a life, or “4 hours 5 days a week in the middle of the day” rather than say 16 across 2 days or something. So frustrating! Can i just have a couple of days work please? At some regular time? I get it, they need it to work for their business too and their hours of operation, but some compromise maybe pleease??

  3. V L says:

    what do you mean with “employers who support your interests and passions” exactly?

    also, would you please explain better this question “What would it take for you to give up another passion for a job if requested? For example:
    • Nothing?
    • Tons of money?
    • Travel options?
    • And so on…”
    i know it’s my fault since i do not speak english perfectly but, would you explain anyway?

  4. Helen Lindop says:

    I can’t help wondering if this kind of attitude where employers want you to sell your soul to them is only making more people want to go freelance. Because the only time in my life that I would have been able to come close to that (not that I’d have wanted to) would have been in my early twenties. Most of the rest of us have too many commitments to even attempt it. In fact I wonder in some cases if this is code for ‘we want someone who is young enough to mould into our way of working and won’t cost too much’.

    I also understand this may be marketing speak for ‘we only want people who work hard and do a good job’ but if so I wish they’d be more direct and honest about this.

  5. Joe says:

    Working for the United States Department of Agriculture is a way to overcome this situation. Last summer for example we worked on population study for Owls, mollusks, and Fishers. The group built and maintained trails. We did invasive species abatement on our vegetation plots.(Weeding roadsides)We built and maintained nesting boxes for cavity nesting ducks.Also we mapped treatment areas for tree sales and thinning
    Then when fire season started we fought wildfires in our national forests. In other words this is not a job it is a life style of constantly adapting to a new situation each week. This is a multipotentialite dream job. Canada has the same type of program so please check it out. There is no reason to trade your soul for a 9-5 20 year commitment to a cubical or a machine spiting out wigits. Live for today, for tomorrow may never come!(By the way, the forest is open come and visit us soon!)

  6. Brian says:

    – “We desire your undivided passion. We want all of your focus. We expect you to give everything for the role and for our business.”

    – “I desire $1M/yr salary. I want 8 weeks leave per year and unlimited sick leave. I expect full autonomy and authority in my role.
    Let’s negotiate.”

  7. Taz says:

    This is a great post, thank you! I work as an architect during the day, I am literally typing this at my architecture job right now feeling slightly guilty I’m not working. Anyway, at my last job there was a person there that was actively hostile to my side-hustle of being a writer. I didn’t know this was a thing, employers who didn’t want their people to have passions outside of work! I would waltz in the office and talk about my writing class and my essays and that person would be seething in her seat. She at one point confronted me about not being focused on my work enough and being concerned about my “second career”, not based on my performance at work (which was great) but based on what I would talk about. She asked me, is architecture just something I’m doing for money and I consider myself a writer or do I consider myself an architect who just writes for fun? It was a point-blank and brilliantly manipulative and invasive question. I felt ashamed of myself for quite some time after this conversation thinking I would never succeed as being an architect if I were to pursue my passion for writing. Anyway, I left that job for this reason and now I work at a firm where my boss is fully aware of my various interests and passions outside my work and is 100% supportive of them. He not only tolerates them but he see the BENEFITS that my passion for writing and community involvement bring to his firm. This is a dream situation for me. Anyway my fellow multi-pods, NEVER be ashamed of your multiple interests. Any employer worth their salt can see that interests outside of work are not only healthy but can be beneficial for the job. However, I have learned also to be respectful of the day job and devote the time and energy I have committed to it. This keeps everyone happy.

  8. Marta says:

    Thanks for this enlightening article. I felt supported as I recently experienced a similar situation. I had a job offer as a teacher and many things made me feel like “Yes this is going to be the right time to start working!”. But they didn’t specify some details, that is to say: the whole school demanded my full time and energies to be devoted to the job, making me leave out all my other projects and purposes. What happened was that when I went to the workplace and saw by myself the situation, I’ve started being more and more nervous. So, when I came back home at the end of the day I suddenly had a panic attack because I knew that the job would be consuming, stressful and wouldn’t let me be free enough to focus on my other interests and passions. I gave up and turned down the offer. I’ve realised I’d rather earn less money, but I need to have an opening to my other projects while I do one job, otherwise it would be like losing my breath.

  9. Gabi says:

    Very interesting article and I understand where people are coming from, however, if I were young again and NASA came to me and said: You get to be an astronaut and it will take all of your attention for the next ten years, I would probably say yes, lets do it. Some things I have done in my life were like that, consuming for a time.. eventually I moved on and was able to have other interests on the side. It can be worth it. The astronaut thing was just an example but there are other things that can consume your life and be very rewarding.. Anyways, I’m lucky to have a job where my outside passions enhance my skillset in my “day job” and to have a boss that appreciates that.

  10. Jissy Akkarapattiakal Kuriappan says:

    I am a scientist working on developing anti-cancer drugs. And I belly dance, perform Bharathanatyam, paint, trek and kick-box. In my office, I am reminded again and again, that I should set my priorities right. And I always reply, I have set them right: I love living my life, doing what I love, which is all of these.

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