One of the most important aspects of anyone’s life that has the ability to enrich or erode it—financially, mentally, physically, and emotionally—is one’s career. Ideally, each of us would get to spend our work lives at jobs we absolutely loved.
It seems clear to me that the notion, “Work is just something you have to endure,” is a money script, an unconscious belief that is only partially true. It only occurred to me recently, though, that the idea, “I won’t settle for anything less than my dream job,” may be a money script as well.
The problem with such unconscious money scripts is that they limit our choices. We automatically assume they are true, so we don’t consider other possibilities. If you believe that it’s normal to hate your job, you may spend your whole career in a rut of tolerable discomfort, because it doesn’t occur to you to find something better.
Believing you’re entitled to nothing less than the “perfect” job, however, can be just as limiting in its own way.
• It may actually keep you from finding a job you love. Not even the best job is going to be completely enjoyable every moment. Someone with an unconscious belief that a dream job has to be perfect might over-emphasize its small flaws and overlook its larger satisfactions. Such a person might always be looking for the next job that might finally be the “right” one.
• It can keep you poor. I’ve known a few people whose unconscious beliefs kept them from taking jobs they felt were beneath them, even temporarily. One young man was unemployed for almost a year, while his wife was working part time and going to school full time, because he refused to “settle for” a fast-food job that would have paid the bills.
• It can limit building a foundation that will result in future rewards. Like many of the choices we make in our lives, work requires finding a balance between our dreams and our responsibilities. I know people who choose work that is less than ideal so they can live in a part of the country—like the Black Hills—that they love. Sometimes a better-paying but less enjoyable job may provide the means to save toward getting an education or starting a business. I’ve known people who spend years working at jobs that are not especially satisfying, but who find their fulfillment outside of work, through organizations, family life, or hobbies.
In some cases, a good step toward your “ideal job” is to become someone else’s “ideal employee.” Doing an exceptional job, even in a position you don’t want to keep long-term, can increase your chances of moving into the job you do want.
Another approach can be to focus on the aspects of your job that you do like and that do fit your skills and talents. Eventually this can be a way to transform a less-than-satisfying job into a rewarding career.
One important way of making sure you don’t get stuck in a job you hate is to avoid the trap of getting stuck in an expensive lifestyle. One of the unhappiest clients I’ve ever worked with was a high-earning professional. He hated his work. Yet because his family had grown used to their luxury home, private schools, and expensive vacations, he didn’t feel he could change careers.
I certainly intend to continue helping my clients find and stay in careers they find fulfilling. I also understand that sometimes, for a season, it’s okay for a job to be just a job.