Is there really a fun-forever job?

from the Preface of In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work

The title of my book came from my daughter who, at age eight, wrote and illustrated a “book” called When I Am Grownup. I’m not sure that most eight-year-olds would be concerned about professional choices or involved in much self-reflection, but she was the daughter of a career consultant and a psychoanalyst and could hardly avoid this type of thinking. It was genetically predetermined.

       In her book, Hannah ruminated about her possibilities. She felt she’d want an “unushowoll” job “that I can do most anything I want in, something like the fun-forever job.” She worried that such a job might not be available and considered other options (a headshrinker or a headhunter) but continued to feel concern about even those jobs working out.

       What was particularly striking to me was that so many of my clients and students have expressed a similar wish for a totally fulfilling career, as if they hoped to discover their perfect, passionate calling out there somewhere. 

       The concept of a “fun-forever job” is amusing because everyone—including, perhaps, Hannah at age eight—knows that it’s absurd. This does not appear to prevent people from wanting it anyway.

       Of course there are a few lucky people who seem to have found that fun-forever job, or think they have, but the number of such people is indeed very small. A job means work, meaning on a daily basis, on most days of the week. Seeking consistent passion puts a heavy emphasis on something that is rarely achieved and often leads to disappointment and discontent at work. Of course, it’s possible to love a job or be passionate about a career, but forever? That’s like looking for a lifetime soul mate who’s great looking, rich, witty, sexy, and sensitive—someone you’ll feel excited about all the time for the entire relationship. 

       To some degree, the search for the fun-forever job has continued for Hannah, as it has for many of my clients, although they refer to it in different terms. Sometimes, it’ll be “something totally exciting,” and other times it’s as basic as “something I won’t dread every day.” 

       I believe career development should be a process that includes figuring out what works and doesn’t work, clarifying personal values, understanding personal style, and leveraging that knowledge moving forward. It doesn’t have to be a lifetime decision. Sometimes it may mean that your job only needs to be reasonably good if it supports you and provides you with a salary, security, and benefits, and you can gain the passion part from what you do outside your job. Or you might turn your full-time job into a part-time one and work on several different activities outside of your core job. There are many other permutations; the key is to not put the pressure of the Big Decision on yourself too early and to realize it may take some time to develop a career that suits you.

       My own career path, as I explain in Chapter 1, is a good example of the many twists and turns you may need to take to reach that point. I’ve written about my own experience in the hope that others who find the career development process complicated or painful may understand better that it often involves a series of realizations and changes—sometimes even circling back to what you knew in the first place.