Confucius said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. This quotation has lived through centuries and continues to be passed on from one generation to the other. It is no surprise that this saying is quite commonly quoted in educational institutes and career counseling seminars to help guide people make decision about their future.
The Confucius approach does not seem to take into account a number of factors that influence the job success and growth. In today’s competitive world where job market seems saturated, computers and robots replacing human jobs, misproportion between population and resources and changing factors such as outsourcing and cost cutting; choosing a job that you love can risk unemployment. Let’s take a look at the unemployment ratio across different countries compiled from the data from 2007-17 before we take a dig into drawbacks of Confucius approach1.
Flaws with Confucius approach:
Limited job options:
If we stick to our interests as the deciding factor in choosing a job, we limit and narrow the number of jobs available to us. Furthermore, human beings are constantly evolving, we develop new interest and grow out of previous interests, therefore it will be unwise to change careers based on changing interests.
Risk of exploitation:
Imagine that your potential employer finds out that you are choosing a job solely because you love the job, s/he may offer you less salary because they know that you are going to accept the job anyway. There have been cases where people have worked for months and even more than a year without getting any salary because they loved the job so much that nothing else mattered. In the long run, such employees found it difficult to negotiate for salary and pay rise because their employer had seen them working for long duration without getting paid.
Disturbance of work/life balance:
If you choose a job that you love, chances are that you are going to enjoy it so much that the boundaries between work and hobbies may become “clearly blurred”. You might find yourself engaged in similar activities to your work even after your job hours. This can result in burnout, losing interest and focus in work, feeling tired and bored.
Does it mean that a person shall take any job, regardless of their interest, just to get into the workforce? Obviously not.
The focus needs to shift towards acquisition of skills that will help attain as well as maintain the job. Your professional development is dependent upon a number of factors regardless of your actual interest in your job.
Developing soft skills:
The hard skills such as relevant degrees, work experience, knowledge etc, are important for your CV and to get a job interview call. The soft skills on the other hand include your attitude, communication skills, ability to work in teams, adaptability and flexibility etc.
During the job interview, people find it much easier to answer questions relating to hard skills compared to soft skills. For example, often the beginning questions in the interview such as “Tell us about yourself” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses” etc, probe your soft skills specifically.
Developing soft skills is as essential as hard skills. Your soft skills are especially evaluated during your probation period and annual appraisals etc. If you have all the interest and love for your job, but deficient soft skills, it may become difficult for you to be considered for important managerial and senior positions.
Stress management skills:
In industrialized countries, 50% of workers have reported their work to be mentally demanding2. In the UK, it is estimated that 526,000 workers suffered from work related stress, anxiety or depression in 2016-173. Speaking of the developing countries, the actual figures might be higher as people are often unaware of the work-related stress and have limited support to manage work related stress. A recent survey of 2,000 employees in Pakistan revealed that one in three individuals experience work related stress4. Likewise, a study on Pakistani police official revealed 97% high stress level5.
Developing a good insight and recognition of your body i.e. when it’s developing stress symptoms, when it needs to take a break and relax etc, are essential to ensure that your mental and physical health being are not being compromised. Similarly, if you are stressed at work, learning skills and techniques to de-stress yourself and preventing the impact of stress from affecting your work and colleagues is a much-needed skill.
Incorporating your interest in work:
People often ask that what should they do if they do not like their job? Should they quit and wait for an “ideal” job to turn up? The short answer is NO.
While it is somewhat true that you will find it difficult to do a job in which you have no interest whatsoever, for most cases, people often have some degree of interest in their job. There can be many ways to develop interest in your job. Some of these tips include developing understanding about your work and expected tasks i.e. by reading new books, watching Youtube videos, attending trainings, talking to your work mates about difficult tasks and see how they approach things, wearing your favourite clothes/perfume to work, doing some interesting activity before going to work that puts you in positive mood and taking short breaks to relax yourself etc. I have covered this in my book “Interpreting Procrastination; Key to Success, Happiness and Wellness” in more detail6.
Think how you can incorporate your interest in your job. For example, if you like to write, you do not have to become an author, you can use your interest in writing reports and proposals etc., at work.
Thinking out of the box:
Nothing beats creativity and ability to think how the job can be done better. If you can develop new and efficient way of doing things, solve existing and potential problems, generate new ideas, think about ways to reduce the production cost, increase production, identify new areas of collaboration and growth for your company, chances are that you will be much more successful at your job.
In conclusion, it is recommended to develop skills that can help you find and maintain a job. The changing face of the global market means becoming jack of all trades and probably master of one or two specialties, but having an open minded, flexible attitude and ability to stand up to challenges is the key to successful employment.
Written by Muhammad Wasif Haq (2017)
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