I have spent the past week splitting my time between my new role and my current role whilst my former and new Manager continue to dispute one another regarding my release date (HR has also become involved).
That drama aside, I am really enjoying my new role. The change in work has really highlighted to me how stagnant I had become in my prior role, and how fantastic it feels to be looking forward to coming to work each day. I am a firm believer that everybody should pursue work that they feel passionate about and abandon the often negative connotations associated with work, particularly full-time office work. These negative connotations are often the reason I will get a strange look if I admit to being ‘career driven‘ or to ‘loving the work I do‘.
So I’d like to debunk some myths.
Career Driven People Have Questionable Priorities
In the past 7 years, I have worked full-time whilst studying, only taking a two week break ONCE to go overseas. As a career driven 25 year old in a sea of travel oriented 20-somethings, the choices I have made are often questioned by friends, family and the media. There are countless articles advocating extensive travelling, significantly outnumbering articles advocating my choice of taking on a greater than expected workload. I often feel the pressure to take a gap year, after all, it is continually reminded to me that nobody wishes they worked more on their death bed and how intensive travelling is key for self development.
I am not against travelling at all and fully intend to see the world at some stage. However I do believe these notions fail to consider how beneficial working towards and succeeding, in your chosen career can be. I have never felt more independent, confident in my own abilities and at ease interacting with people from all ages and walks of life, than I do now. These are benefits often attributed to travelling however I gained them through navigating office politics and projects.
I’m currently happily engaged, however I’m sure that if I find myself in my 30’s unmarried or without children, my priorities will continue to be questioned. Not all successful people in the corporate world are motivated by greed and power, what about a sense of achievement, self-fulfillment, being able to give their children a life they never had? People do what makes them feel good, what makes them excited to get out of bed and sometimes, just what they need to do to get by. Whether that is travel, staying at home to raise a family, shift work so you can make band practice, or dedicating most of your efforts to your career, I don’t think there should be a superior choice.
Career Driven People Have No Lives Outside of Their Work
The assumption is that if you spend longer than average hours at the office or you’re also attending say, MBA evening AND weekend classes, you probably don’t have a life because a) you are so time strapped and b) you voluntarily chose this for yourself.
Of course, there will be people who actually just have nothing else on outside of work, but I think this is an unfair generalisation. A truer statement would be that time strapped people are efficient, organised and want to extract the most that they can out of life. Time is a valuable commodity, you can be career driven and still schedule periodic catch ups with friends, restaurant dinners, hikes, beach-time and interstate weekend trips. Arguably, you will be more appreciative of, and present during, these events because you understand their worth. Often, if I’m back at the office working late, it means that I’ve eaten into my ‘weeknight reality TV’ time, I would argue that the latter isn’t really an indication of me having a life at all.
Work to Live, Don’t Live To Work
The above statement, along with ‘work/life balance’ and ‘another dollar, another day’ puts work and life in direct opposition of each other or at different ends of the spectrum, work being negative and life being positive. You engage in the negative so that you can support the positive, which in my opinion, is an unhealthy and unproductive perception, given that we spend so much of our time at work.
I believe that a more accurate depiction would be a giant circle representing your life, work being another circle within that circle, along with other circles like your home life, friends, health, etc, and that most of these aspects overlap in some way. Work shouldn’t be perceived as something you have to do to fuel the other parts of your life, it’s just a natural part of life that has its pros and cons, as with everything in life. I see work as an opportunity to learn, create, challenge myself, make genuine human connections, not to mention dress up. I look forward to it as a part of my life, just as I look forward to the weekend or a holiday, as other parts of my life.
Lastly, I’ve noticed that our mutual dislike of working has become a quick and easy way to bond with co-workers, much like talking about the weather. Do you notice how much small talk on Fridays, is talking about how relieved we are that it’s Friday? Due to this, it can be difficult to break from the norm and express a contrary view. If you don’t feel the same way, be brave and express it. If you’re busy, does it have to be said with a shake of the head, or can it be said with enthusiasm? It’s all about challenging attitudes and perceptions, starting with our own.