Updated: Jan 31
I often ask people would they continue to work at their job, or even the same industry, if they no longer needed to work to support their families or suddenly came into a large sum of money. Ninety percent say they wouldn’t.
Most say they would become more active with hobbies they enjoy, travel more frequently, or get involved in things they always wished they could do.
While I understand that we all have responsibilities related to maintaining a household, this got me thinking. Do most people view work as something to be endured and not enjoyed? Why don’t more people see work as an expression of abilities to be used to positively impact the world?
I was intrigued by the recent news of the Great Resignation. Many Americans left jobs that were not meeting their needs. It’s important that people are taking back power and demanding better working conditions, but the problem is deeper than that. If employees leave jobs solely for higher pay, we will continue to have a workforce where over 70% of people hate their work as was cited by Gallup. People must enjoy what they do.
So how do we change mindsets related to the role of work so people begin to enjoy work as opposed to enduring it?
We Must Change The Negative Connotation Associated With the words “Work” & “Job”
Merriam Webster Definitions:
Work - a task or tasks to be undertaken; something a person or thing has to do.
Job - a specific duty, role, or function; something that has to be done; an undertaking requiring unusual exertion
Reading the definitions of both words accurately expresses how most people feel about them. Undertaken, duty has to do, unusual exertion - all these words sound like a burden. A large majority look at work as a nuisance or obligation that takes them away from doing things they love.
Changing this perspective starts with helping individuals prepare for entering the workforce as well as connecting what people want in work with what companies offer. We know that workers want more than just another task to be completed every day, the Great Resignation speaks to this. If people think of work as a way to use their gifts and talents to impact the world and not only as a means to pay bills, they would be more excited to go there.
We Must Change The Way Youth & Young Adults Are Prepared To Enter The Workforce
I wrote about this a few years ago in my article, “Why So Many Americans Are Unhappy At Work”. To achieve a happier workforce, school systems and parents will need to change their approach to how students are prepared. During my career as a Career Coach and conducting 1:1 interviews with people who love their work in my Find Your Work Video Series, one of the most common themes is self-awareness. The happily employed know what they’re good at (natural abilities, interests, problems they want to solve in the world, values, etc.) and have crafted careers centered around these things.
Companies like Stride Inc., where I work as a College & Career Coach understands that the new approach has to prepare students for entering the workforce. Each student has access to 1:1 career coaching and is exposed daily to resources that help them to become self-aware and gain real-world experience. Students must understand who they are at the core (natural abilities, values, interests) before graduating high school. Unfortunately, most schools are failing students in this aspect. Due to lack of preparation, these students end up in careers that aren’t a good fit thus becoming a part of the population of people who dread going to work.
Parents also need to help their students gain awareness by paying close attention to their interests and strengths while helping them gain exposure to environments that will put their skills to the test. College should not be recommended as a way to “find themselves”.
We Must Change Work Cultures
No one wants to work in a toxic environment. Controlling, top-down management styles that don’t listen to employees, a lack of flexibility, bad bosses, environments where employees don’t receive praise for great work, and underpaid and overworked employees all add to the dread people feel at work. Some people may actually love their job but hate the work environment, which can make for a miserable experience. People want more flexibility to move within the organization, work-life balance, less micro-management, options for working from home, simpler hiring practices, and work teams that don’t stress them out. Companies must recognize that the needs of employees have changed from thirty years ago and implement solutions to meet these evolved needs.
Many Haven’t Found The Right Work
You may not like every aspect of the work you do, but since you will spend a great chunk of your time there and it can affect other areas of your life (such as mental health and relationships with others), it’s imperative to find work you enjoy. If you take the time to discover your abilities and pay attention to your interests, chances are, you’ll find work you revel in. One of the biggest reasons people endure work as opposed to loving it is because they’re in the wrong lane. They’re operating in a place that they were not meant to be. It’s like a fish trying to fly or a giraffe trying to swim. We regularly use our abilities, but we are so busy in life we don’t always take the time to pay attention to what they are. I can speak from experience as someone who loves the work they do, when you like what you do, you look forward to it. If you or someone you know is struggling to find direction feel free to register for my self-paced online career clarity course.
Must Be Willing To Re-evaluate and Adjust
Some people are fearful of change, any kind of change. They fear losing salary and benefits. They fear changing their routines. They fear their dream is too big for them. Maybe you once loved the work you do and now you’re bored. Just because you start in an industry doesn’t mean you have to stay in it. Since interests and goals change depending on where we are in life, we must be willing to regularly re-evaluate our work situations and be committed to making changes if needed. Change does not always have to be in the form of completely shifting directions, perhaps pivoting to a new department is better suited for you. To be in a place where you enjoy the work you do, you must be willing to move past fear and comfort to evaluate your satisfaction compared with your goals and interests.