Jobs and romantic partners are more similar than you might think. I got my first job when I was 16, around the same time that I began my first relationship. Both were new and exciting for me at that point in my life, and both offered unique learning experiences! The job was under the table and had me doing landscaping, painting and joyriding various farming vehicles. The girlfriend was bubbly, mischievous, and not my mom’s favorite. I think the reason both of these came about at the same time was that they were both a necessity at that point in my life. The job was a way for me to pay for my car and keep my parents off my back and my girlfriend offered the opportunity to explore love and affection with another person.
Love and money, they are two important aspects of our lives as human beings. We seek them out daily, but we don’t recognize how similarly we go about pursuing them. When we’re young, the jobs we work or the partners we choose are, for the most part, of little consequence. As we get older, the pressure to secure both income and love increases. At first it’s subtle, parents and family friends asking what you want to do with your life, and around the same time you also have friends splashing their #relationshipgoals all over social media. By the time you’re thirty, societal pressure is even higher. In many social circles, you’re expected to be established in a career you love and also be in love with someone.
People search for love in different ways. Take, for example, my old roommate Dan. Dan was an engineer with a very analytical way of thinking about the world. When it came to finding a soulmate, he scoured online dating sites because, in his opinion, they offered a “statistical advantage” for finding love. At one point, he went as far as doing the same date with different people in order to create a control from which he could compare results. Needless to say, it was a bit extreme, but when it comes to job searching, young adults find themselves in a similar situation. I was recently scouring online postings and firing off resumes to any company with a posting that matched my basic interests, hoping for a response. The difference between my job search and Dan’s search for love is that he was getting responses. Burn. I’m not sure what’s worse, a love interest not texting back or knowing deep down that a potential employer didn’t even look at your cover letter that took you over an hour to write.
The quest for love has been documented for centuries by musicians, artists, and authors, but why haven’t we documented falling in love with our work? I recently fell in love with my job and it’s nothing short of liberating. Finally, awkward conversations with my mom’s friends about “what I do”, are now less awkward. The feeling was refreshingly liberating yet strangely familiar. Many of us fall in love with a person before we fall in love with our work, but luckily, there are a lot of similarities between the two.
So, here are five ways you can find a loving, stable relationship with your work:
Throw expectations out the window
What people think you should or shouldn’t be doing at a certain age is irrelevant. The only thing that everyone should be doing is being proactive. You have to put in effort to make something appear.
Follow your heart
Deep down, there is something you love to do, and chances are you’re already doing it. It’s the thing that you would do for free every day. It's the pastime that gets your heart pumping when you think about it. If it feels right to keep doing it.
A toxic workplace is like a toxic relationship; it might seem great at first, but it can get really bad really quickly. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working in an office, manual labor or in the service industry, if you’re not being treated with basic respect, it's time to find a new place to grow.
There are great resources online but nothing beats being in-person
Whether its swiping right on Tinder or making 100’s of connections on LinkedIn, I’ve always been a firm believer that quality is better than quantity. The internet offers us tools to connect more broadly and efficiently, but they are just that; tools. Use them as one of many.
I’ve never felt more deflated than when I’ve compared myself to my friends. In addition to this, it's easy to portray success in the age of social media. What’s really difficult is creating your own meaning of success. Don’t worry about how many followers people have or what they're bragging about. Last time I checked, you can’t pay bills with likes and retweets.
Advising young adults to seek out work they love can be misconstrued as a quest that's only available to the privileged, but that idea could not be more wrong. Doing what you love to do for work means you are going to do everything you can to be the best at it. Being broke sucks, but waking up and going to a job you hate every day is even worse. Take it from me, I’ve experienced both. What you love to do might be completely different from your parents, best friend or significant other, and that's okay.
Just like a relationship with a person, your relationship with your work will change over time. You might want to change companies, specializations or even work for yourself. At the end of the day it’s all about growth, so just enjoy the experience of working at what you love to do and believe in the outcome.