If you’ve been around on the blog for a while, you’ll know that I used to be very career focused. I was hooked on Sophia Amoruso’s Girl Boss book when it was first published back in 2014.
I think I liked the aesthetic of being a ‘city girl’ in a cool job, with the corner office and the killer outfits. But the reality of that? It’s not so fun.
For a few years, that was what I aspired to. I worked my butt off during university, doing as many internships as I could, starting this blog writing about public relations and networking as much as I could.
It’s been three years since I came back from New York and we’ve had a global pandemic in those years. A lot has changed, but most of all, my perspective on careers and jobs has changed.
What is the purpose of a job?
If you break it down and strip everything back, the purpose of a job is to earn money in order to survive. To pay your bills and put food on the table. That’s the basic meaning of a job.
But having a job and career also gives you purpose and (sometimes) enjoyment, as well as feeding your ambition to climb even higher in your field. It also gives you credibility, allows you to make connections and also provides you the potential to earn as much money as you desire.
But going back to the first point I made, the purpose of a job is to earn money in order to pay your rent/mortgage and to put food on the table.
So what are the reasons for going above and beyond this? For working into the evenings, working weekends, putting huge amounts of pressure and stress on yourself and to constantly be thinking about work/on the clock.
What’s it all for?
Climbing the career ladder
I guess a lot of us start out ambitiously when we’re young. We want to prove to our seniors that we are good at what we do, can be trusted and can move to the next level.
We work the long hours, starting before anyone else, being the last one to leave the office at the end of the day, sending e-mails at ungodly hours to show how dedicated we are, how eager we are to please.
But for what? To earn more money? To have a better job title? To take on more responsibility and be even more stressed and burned out?
A younger me would have said absolutely yes to all of the above, wanting promotion after promotion, always aiming to please and perform to the best I can, and going above and beyond.
But now I’m starting to realise, what’s it all for? To miss social events with friends? To be so burnt out at the weekends that you have no energy to do anything for yourself? To go to bed thinking about work and wake up thinking about work? To do nothing but moan and complain to your other half every day about how stressed you are?
Is that what chasing the career ladder is all about?
What matters more
I’ve recently started to think about what matters more to me. Is it a job title? Is it how much I earn? Is it where I live? Is it the free time I have outside of work?
I’ve realised now that I value what I do outside of work more than I value my job. In the current financial climate and seeing what’s going on around the world in terms of conflict and disasters, my career and job have started to decrease in importance.
Companies are laying off thousands of employees, no matter their length of service or how much work they’ve put in over the time that they’ve been there. It’s become quite clear that you are simply a number in any organisation, not a person with bills to pay or worries that will hugely increase by being let go.
It no longer feels realistic to treat the place you work as a ‘home’ and somewhere you want to put your heart and soul into. After all, they would replace you in a heartbeat if something was to happen to you and the company wouldn’t fall down if you no longer worked there.
What I’ve come to realise, is that my freedom and life experiences matter most to me. Being able to travel around the world, having the freedom to enjoy my evenings and weekends to the full capacity and not bringing work home and spending hours moaning and complaining to my friends and family.
Can you have a job that’s enjoyable?
But is it possible to have a job that you enjoy, that offers work/life balance and enjoyment and that fulfils your level of ambition and drive?
I’m not so sure. I think every job comes with its downfalls and things you won’t like. Even if you land your dream job, it will still be a ‘job’. Even if you work for yourself, that will still come with a lot of responsibility and pressure to earn a sustainable income to pay your bills and feed you.
So what’s the solution? Is it better to have a monotonous job that you can do you in your sleep so that it lets you go home every day and completely switch off? Or is it better to have a stressful job that you feel incredibly passionate about and work around the clock?
Or is there a happy medium?
I’ve come to the realisation that I would rather chase meaning over career. A meaningful life filled with travel experiences, life experiences and stories to tell future generations.
Would I rather say, Remember that time I worked every evening for a full month?, or Remember that time I spent a month in Colombia travelling, trying new foods and experiencing a new culture?
I don’t know about you, but I know which one sounds more appealing to me. But in order to travel, it might be to the consequence of leaving the corporate world behind.