Do you love what you do? Are you passionate about your work? No? Then maybe you feel like a professional pariah these days.
A caveat – I really, really enjoy my job. And I know that I am very lucky to work every day with fantastic colleagues and clients. But I also know plenty of people who don’t love their jobs. They love their family, their friends, their hobbies…they want to pay the mortgage and make sure their children have a good life. They have a sense of pride, a sense of responsibility and work serves a very real purpose. So when did work become about passion? And is this passion doing us any good?
Just before the financial crash of 2008, I was talking with a Partner at a Magic Circle law firm. The workplace he had entered as a law school graduate was changing beyond all recognition. Jobs weren’t for life. Newer, sexier start-ups were appealing to high potentials. And so instead of just a contract, he commented that his firm and those of his clients were entering into a compact with new hires. In good times (which they still were) talented recruits needed to be tied in emotionally to a company where their first few years would involve long hours and often less than exiting briefs. They were not interested in the money. So an emotional attachment bound an individual to an organization in a way that no salary or promotional pathway could do.
And after the crash? Well, global multinationals are still competing for the top graduates but I think something else is happening in the UK, too. A mash up of Valley (Silicon) culture, TV talent shows, Instagram #inspo and the evolution of capitalism means we’ve turned a helpful emotional bond with work into demanding that work is passion. And that anyone lacking this is somehow….lacking.
There’s a whole business culture and lucrative models built out of bright workspaces with cheery slogans. And don’t get me wrong, they’re so much nicer than a land of grey cubicles. But are we letting new generations down by insisting that they have to *heart* work? Does everyone have to monetize a hobby into a ‘side hussle’? Can’t you just enjoy your downtime instead of having to package and sell? Or are we saying in a world where there are no jobs for life, where there are fewer and fewer decent pensions (but lots of quirky perks), where there are more and more graduates, that all that remains is love (with apologies to the poet Philip Larkin)?