October 06, 2016

“Just Do What You Love” Is Bad Career Advice

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-23-05-22

I’ve decided “Do what you love!” (and “Be yourself”) are annoying catchphrases. Because it’s more complex than that.

I’m one of those people who says “I love my job!” – I try not to hashtag it though. But I haven’t always loved my jobs, mind. If you love your job it means you are incredibly fortunate and lucky and you often feel you have to justify how you got into a position of loving your job. Wikipedia entries and Instagram posts rarely disclose the bad days, but they do show off the achievements. Some people do not like their jobs (most people don’t like their jobs), so the fact that you have wormed your way into doing something you like, let alone love, is the very essence of privilege.

Also, it’s never been very cool to enjoy what you do. It’s fun to moan. How else are we meant to bond with other people at work? I Instagrammed a mug earlier this week that says “your enthusiasm is scaring everyone.” It does. It does scare people.

I really enjoyed Jamie Varon’s piece this week, about the danger of throwing around the phrase “do what you love!” like magic confetti because, duh, it ain’t that simple. The sheer fact that you aremaking money from something changes it by default from “yay hobby!” to “ugh, job”. Jamie writes: “The shadow side of doing what you love is that suddenly the thing you love now has to make money for you.”

EXACTLY. A job is a job is a job is a….

See, I think saying “I love my job” is a rather different thing from saying “I’m doing what I love every minute of every day!”

There was an article that got circulated earlier this year – “get paid to watch Netflix at home!” Everyone was like omg, dream job! But seriously? I genuinely think even if your job was to watch Netflix even that would get annoying. I’m sure there’s a psychology behind it, that getting paid to do something can turn pretty much anything into a chore.

To me the bumper stickers that say “Do what you love and don’t work another day in your life!” translate into an impossible dream to somehow get paid to do the thing you love doing on the weekends. This, I’ve realised, just isn’t reality. It SOMETIMES happens. SOMETIMES. But it’s difficult to monetise a lot of “very fun things”. It’s difficult to monetize things that don’t take a lot of energy. You have to have something worthy of monetizing in the first place. That takes work. Work work work. That’s why creating art is hard and getting paid for it is even harder. So the people who claim to earn money while lying in a hammock? I don’t buy it. It’s never the full picture.

I’m very careful of who I pick to sponsor my podcast for example but it’s so close to my heart and at the moment a total JOY. I don’t want to start hating it because I’m monetising it. I love it. At the moment, this is as close to “doing what I love” as I may ever get. But is doing the podcast easy? No. Does it take up as much time as if I was producing/hosting it for an outside brand? Yes. Do I feel bad for getting paid to do it? No. Do I believe in the content I’m making? Yes. Do I sometimes find it fucking boring editing an episode for the 10th time? Yes.

From the outside it can look like someone is earning money by literally just posting pictures of themselves on Instagram for example. Or travelling the world, or writing lists on their blog. If they are, even that is a hustle these days. In a world where Everyone Is A Blogger, growing and KEEPING an audience is hard af. Yes there are worst jobs to be doing. But there is an anxiety that comes with keeping up with the industry you’re in. Yesterday’s news = today’s chip wrappers. And when people say “YouTubers aren’t exactly saving lives” you wonder how many millions of young teens watch these harmless heroes and comment that they’ve helped their confidence/anxiety/mental health.

If they are getting paid from another job (or person or a family member/partner) to fund “the blogging lifestyle” then I think they should take some responsibility to disclose that. I hate the idea that young people are potentially buying into a lifestyle that simply does not exist. If you are earning money from ads on your blog/Insta all on your own, all power to you! No one who launched a beautiful looking website and then sat back and relaxed ended up with a successful website. The hustle of actually getting people clicking on your thing is worthy of something.

The work you put into your blog or craft or [insert thing here] might not be directly monetized but will that work lead to bigger and better things? Probably. Is the hard work worth it? ALWAYS. Maybe not straight away. Maybe you won’t see the rewards tomorrow. But Future You Five Years From Now will thank you SO MUCH that five years ago you decided to put in the leg work to achieve a job you might end up liking.

When I say “I love my job!” or “I love what I do” it doesn’t mean I’m enjoying EVERY SINGLE SECOND of my career.

I don’t go around saying “no day feels like work”. Man, it feels like work. IT FEELS LIKE WORK. It’s not always enjoyable. I find my job uncomfortable, scary, unpredictable, challenging but I still say the phrase “I love my job”. I love it because of all these things. I love the feeling of doing something before I’m ready. Or before other people think I’m ready. Whatever “ready” means. I say it because I’ve come to terms with the fact that you cannot “do what you love” and get paid for it and STILL LOVE IT ALL THE TIME.

If you have a hobby you like, it’s OK to leave it as a hobby. I don’t rely on my blog as the main way to make money for example. If I did — my poor blog! Imagine that pressure! I’d probably end up bitching about it. However, it’s the opposite, it’s one of my favourite things to spend time on. The blog stays as a space for me to do whatever I like and it’s still thoroughly enjoyable for that reason. As the late great Bill Cunnningham used to say: ”If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.” The blog feeds into everything though. It’s made me a better writer over the years. It’s led me to dream opportunities. It’s responsible for a lot.

I love what I do, but I don’t do it “just for fun”. It’s work. I do it to make money. It just turns out it’s possible to love a job that sometimes drives you up the wall. You can still do the fun stuff too and have hobbies and create care-free art without depending on it to pay the bills, and without anyone peering over your shoulder. And if it ends up making you money one day? Well, what a bonus.

  • Amazing post yet again Emma! I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. For example I finished work two hours early on Friday, something really small but to me I was over the moon, literally running out the doors shouting woohoooo it’s the weekend. As I drove home I caught myself thinking I wish I finished this early every Friday. Then I realised, if I did then it wouldn’t be something out of the ordinary. It would be normal, I’d get used to it very quickly and I’d want to finish even earlier or not go to work at all on a Friday.

    It’s sad but eventually we get used to everything, my mum has always said whenever I’ve complained about wanting a higher paid job. If you had a higher paid job, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’d have more money. You would just find more things to spend it on.

    My grandfather has always said be careful what you wish for it terms of jobs. If you end up turning a hobby you adore into work, you will most likely stop enjoying it and begin to resent it. It will become a chore.

    You’ve got all the juices flowing and thoughts whirling once again so thank you!
    Peta xx

    24hoursintoday.com

My Book

“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”

– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE

"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"

– The Debrief

“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic