“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Even though the Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius said that some 1,500 years ago, I still hear people say that. In fact, I heard a guy who has been a career counselor his entire life utter that line in a meeting just last week. But what of it? Is loving our job part of the job today?
This is the post that started me down this path. The headline in the Fast Company piece is certainly provocative, Why Faking Enthusiasm Is The Latest Job Requirement. The author says, "Sooner or later, most jobs require us to exhibit some emotion that we don't necessarily feel." Yeah, sure, of course. I'll buy that. But is this new? Is this truly an emerging job requirement as her headline seemingly contends?
"Sooner or later, most jobs require us to exhibit some emotion that we don't necessarily feel."
Unfortunately, the question the headline poses doesn't really get answered, as the author instead veers off topic and into areas such as the marginalizing of women in tech companies and "people roles" and other detours.
So I thought I would take a shot at it.
First of all, I don't think this is a particularly new phenomenon. Social philosopher and sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild wrote in her 1983 book The Managed Heart, that saying one thing - and believing another - creates a feeling of stress and estrangement in ourselves.
She repeatedly cites flight attendants as a group of workers who have to smile and act cordial, even when they are tired and worn down and feeling unappreciated.
Many of us are probably regularly served cups of espresso and cappuccino and other overpriced coffee-based drinks by smiling baristas who may be actually feeling underemployed and underpaid and even dehumanized at times.
Can we fake our enthusiasm and still be productive and happy on the job? Do we need to love our jobs for that? Here's what Steve Jobs had to say on the subject one time.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it."
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do."
I have a wealthy and successful friend who is in financial services. He says, "To me, love is a strong word – a word that shouldn’t even be used for your work. I mean, I love my wife, I love my kids, I love my dogs. But my job? My career? That doesn’t require love. It requires commitment, dedication, hard work, maybe even passion – but not love."
When I spoke to a group of HR professionals recently, I later asked one of them about this notion of loving what we do. Their response?
"Growth is all that matters. If you’re growing and learning in everything you do, then you’re moving in the right direction, you’re taking steps toward where you ultimately want to be. If you’re not – then get out and find something that will help you grow. Or change your attitude."
Another friend of mine, John Christensen, is CEO and "Playground Director" of a company called ChartHouse Learning. He was a documentary filmmaker who was inspired by a business world famous for its incredible energy and commitment to service—the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. He studied the fishmongers, identified four simple practices that help anyone bring new energy and commitment to their work, and called it the FISH! Philosophy:
[caption id="attachment_19506" align="alignright" width="153" caption="John Christensen, FISH! Philosopher"][/caption]
• Provide amazing service that makes customers want to come back again and again.
• Build a culture where employees love to give their best every day.
• Build effective leaders who inspire through their example.
• Improve teamwork and build trust.
"The bureaucracy conspires against us and prevents us from doing the very things we love, the reasons we pursued a particular profession to begin with," says Christensen. "But we can all choose how we show up in the workplace. We all have the ability to play, to be present, to serve others, to make each other's day."
Last fall I gave a presentation on how to sell yourself in a job interview situation to a networking group comprised mainly of unemployed people. One guy raised his hand during the Q & A period that followed and said he had been in IT services all his life, and didn't want to go back to the field, but it's his quickest path to re-employment. He said he didn't love it, and asked me, "How do you fake it?" I asked him why he would want to, and he replied, "Because that's what employers want these days."
And that brings us back to the beginning. As a hiring manager, as a recruiter, are you searching for someone who truly loves what they do? Do you have to love what you do to be good at it as Steve Jobs opines? Or can you still be happy and productive and grow without absolutely loving your job?