What if your passion isn't paying enough

R.I.P., dream job: “Good enough” is the future

Disclaimer: Demi identifies itself as non-binary. Therefore we use the form “er: sie” for Demi as an alternative to the English gender-neutral pronoun “they”.
Since he was 18, Demi has been working for the same business at six different locations. He: She started out as a part-time cashier: in, but has since taken on a leadership role. "Since then, I've been calling myself well paid," says Demi. The other side of the coin is that his: their work schedule can be quite irregular. According to Demi, the biggest advantage of this job is that “the work is well paid and I don't have to take it home with me”. Demi is now 24 years old and earns around 42,000 euros a year. Demi values ​​the quality of life that he: her his: her professional activity offers. “I recently moved and now live near a very cute market that is open six days a week. I can now do most of my grocery shopping there because I can now afford it, "says Demi, adding that his: her life is mainly about his: maintaining their relationship, accumulating paid vacation days, going out with friends : to be able to do inside and to explore cool places in the area. All of this is possible through his: her job: “Not only can I allow myself to do all these things, but I also have the time and energy to do it,” he tells us. But not everyone understands why Demi is satisfied with "good enough". Demi adds: "I feel like I had to defend my job from the start."
"The whole idea that work should give your life meaning and fill you is pretty capitalist and illustrates where we stand as a society," explains Demi. Demi does not take his: her work home with her because it is not his: her passion or an expression of his: her identity. For Demi, this job is just a necessity - a means that makes it possible to lead a fulfilling life beyond work.
However, Demi's attitude to viewing work as just a job is not necessarily the most common. For many of us, the following question is more firmly anchored in the subconscious: If you are not doing your so-called “dream job”, what is the meaning of your life anyway? Our work has fulfilled a double function for some time: It should provide food and shelter, and also reveal something about who we really are - not only at work, but also in our private life. "Follow your passion" and "Do what you love and you won't work a single day in your life like this " May be well-intentioned job search advice and great Instagram quotes, but make it seem like life is all about work. Of course we have to work to make ends meet. But there are other things that count. However, many cannot afford to live by this motto, as it is difficult to land a well-paid but not too costly job.
Demi's family makes fun of his: their job in the store and asks regularly if Demi still works there. That leaves him: she's cold, because his: her job still fulfills its original task: Thanks to him, Demi can pay all the bills. Many of us are more than familiar with this pressure to find the “right” job that we get from family members and friends. But there are numerous other factors that add to the burden: When studying, you are expected to choose a direction that will also bring you a job later. The unemployment figures this year are anything but hopeful. If you have or are caring for one or more children, you face additional barriers at work. In addition, there is the expectation that you have to love your job. "The idea that one should strive for a job that one loves and accept the sacrifices that go with it is moralized in society," says Dr. Erin Cech, sociologist and author of The Passion Principle: How the Search for Self-Expressive & Fulfilling Careers Reproductions Inequality. She explains that there are many of us who somehow sell ourselves below value when our work does not satisfy us. “But why should it be work that gives our life meaning?” Cech says into the room. "This way of thinking is very limited."
Cech focuses her research on what she calls the “passion principle”. This is the idea that when making career decisions, prioritize self-expression and fulfillment. Cech's research shows that you are able to accept that all jobs involve boring tasks because your work has to do with your passion and therefore “fulfills” you. Because your job seems worth it to you, you are able to accept the negative aspects - from overwork to underpaid. Cech states that precarious employment can be improved by using the principle, as this way of thinking “is directed against the capitalist work structure and collective demands for shorter working hours, fairer pay or better integration of work and private life come to the fore”. While some of us have never been in the privileged position of “following our passion”, our society is fixated on the search for “dream jobs”. It has a huge impact on the importance of work for all of us.
Sometimes the difficulty with doing a dream job isn't that the job in itself is hard to come by, but rather that it doesn't exist in a way that is fair and sustainable. A 25-year-old diversity and inclusion manager who wants to remain anonymous says she can only do her real dream job - writing - as a freelancer. So she writes alongside her regular work. She explains: “I think that such a work situation is very typical for black women: I don't think our dream jobs really exist.” In the past, she had writing jobs that she loved. But she always felt that the media companies she wrote for were not inclusive enough and didn't allow her to write about what was really important to her. The reason: the audience or the editorial team were predominant White. A dream job is not only well paid, but would also enable her to work in a diverse team and environment, she says - a real rarity.
Although her current position is completely different from what she wanted to do, her current job and much of what she does in the field of writing overlap thematically. This includes developing methods to enable a more diverse pool of applicants: creating messages on diversity and inclusion issues on the company's website, and writing opinions in response to the Black lives matr movement and the assassination of George Floyd. She can imagine staying in this role for the long term. The company she's currently working for knows that she is also a freelance writer. "To be honest, I find the stability and the pay very appealing," she says of her job. “I don't think I could make six-figure sums at any media company when I was 25. Now I'm paid for the work I did in the companies before, but unpaid. What I'm getting at is that with many black employees, the responsibility for diversity and inclusion simply falls back on them in the end, no matter what role they play in the respective company. At least now I'm getting paid to do this job. "
Where does the urgent need to see our jobs as more than just work come from? That wasn't always the case. According to Cech, some people think: "If no job is guaranteed anyway, I might as well go looking for a job that means a lot to me." A cultural component also comes into play: According to Cech, there is a strong individualistic mindset, coupled with a capitalist drive and the expectation of making decisions relevant to identity in all areas of life, also play an important role here. "And that's how this urge for self-expression arose," says Cech. She adds that the labor market is not geared towards our desire for meaning. The world of work is all about making money for the companies and organizations we work for.
For content marketer and author Tiffany, whose income is between 42,000 and 58,000 euros per year, her job was a significant opportunity: She went to school in a small town where poverty prevailed and the existing infrastructure was very poor. She failed to graduate due to undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder. Since she didn't have a ride, she had to find a job that was nearby. “I admit that starting my career was very tough,” explains Tiffany. “I had very little money to spend and had to do without any government support or health care.” She now views her work and the skills she has acquired as a means to an end rather than a form of passion. “I have completely overworked myself in the last ten years because everything in our capitalist society revolves around what someone does for a living,” she says. Sometimes she feels guilty knowing that some people see her job as a dream job. But she really just wants to be able to earn enough money to have enough to live on and to be able to do things that she really wants to do. Her passion is saving animals. She is now using her writing and marketing skills to support the animal rescue community.
"All my life, but especially in my early 20s, I've felt the pressure to fight for a career that would seemingly determine my worth as a person," she says. “But my dream has nothing to do with productivity or work. I dream of contributing to change where I can and leaving the world better than I found it. ”She explains that she has developed a lot. “It took a long time to get rid of the feeling that my job is what defines me as a person. But I feel much better now. "
A well-paying job that might not necessarily be called “significant” may even seem fake. It is not just the way we perceive work that we should change: Not all meaningful work is paid well or at all, and not everything that is enjoyable should necessarily become a source of work and income. "I think it's important to emphasize that the reason people are looking so much for passion in their job is because the work usually takes at least 40 hours a week," says Dr. Cech.
Now that the appeal and even the opportunity to find a dream job seems to be fading, employees are re-evaluating their situation and paying more attention to what they spend their time with and where they want to focus their energies. They know that the answer to work problems cannot always be found in a new job, or that work-life balance may not always be a priority - although they are still expected to adapt their lives and their expectations to their work. We now realize that if our career doesn't bring us enough fulfillment, it is in no way a form of failure - that shouldn't always be a job requirement anyway. Instead, it is the system that has failed us; a system that equates income and job titles with ambition and value, placing the burden on workers to orient their lives around work while reminding them that life is not all about it.
It is important that when solving a problem, individuals are not expected to set their priorities differently, says Cech. She appeals to think about it together: Even people who love their work should think about how they can help other workers: inside their own organizations and through social movements and supportive legislation, says Cech, so that the burden, Improving working conditions does not only fall on those who are already campaigning for it. But it is also important to realize that it is okay not to love your work, but simply to be neutral towards it and not see it as a mirror of who you are inside. Demi reflects this thought when he: she says: “I don't even have a dream job. I don't dream of working. "