Do you enjoy your work?

By Caitlin Kelly


Most people don’t.

It’s shocking, and sad, that so few Americans enjoy what they do for a living; every new Gallup poll finds a majority of them, two-thirds, “disengaged” — a state of affairs that leads to endless, tedious screeds on LinkedIn and Twitter about how to “engage” your staff.

If you hate what you do all day, you’re unlikely to do it well.

That photo above is of one of Jose’s credentials; he’s been working freelance with the United States Golf Association for a few years now.

He got the job thanks to a few introductions, (and his excellent skills!) The man loves golf. Now they fly him across the U.S. to photo edit their major tournaments.

I lost my fancy newspaper job in 2006 and freelancing was going poorly. So, in September 2007 I took a part-time job as a sales associate, for $11/hr and no commission, at a local mall.

Long past my teenage years, I was the oldest member of our 15-person team, including our manager and assistant manager.

Initially, I really liked the job.

And yet it’s a job everyone knows is nasty — crappy pay, no challenge, tedious and repetitive.

Any job, if you enjoy elements of it, can make you happy

My fancy newspaper job had actually been a year of misery, (details tedious), the most difficult experience of my career.

So being once more liked, accepted, even welcomed — albeit into a low-wage, low-status part-time job, healed me. No one was trying to force me out. No one refused to speak to me if I said “hello” to them.

malled cover HIGH
My second book, published in 2011

I was good at selling, able to relate easily to a wide range of customers, from the emissary for an Arabian prince to Finnish bankers to a Boy Scout. I loved the variety of people who shopped in our store, (The North Face), and being able to help them.

When you emerge from a job, no matter how prestigious or well paid, where nothing you ever do is deemed good enough, simply being able to please someone is a real solace.

It was for me.

Working retail also allowed me to use my French and Spanish skills occasionally, sharing travel tips with shoppers who were buying a backpack to train across Europe or a suitcase to go to Peru, places I’d been to and could discuss helpfully.

One of my first national magazine stories, examining what happens in an animal testing lab.

Every job, even the most putatively glamorous you can think of, has elements you will probably never love — highly-paid actors often loathe the press junkets and conferences and interviews they have to do to promote their films. They just want to act!

So I appreciated this recent essay:

First, make sure you choose a career or project that you enjoy pursuing, one that offers present benefits for you. Keep in mind that unless you find small pleasures in your daily routine, you will not stick to it.

Second, add present benefits to your working hours. Listen to music, make friends and break the routine with social activities. Do whatever makes you happy at work; you can stick to your career goals longer if your work is enjoyable in the moment.

Third, bring to mind those present benefits that do exist at your work. Maybe you just have not been paying attention to them…You can similarly motivate yourself to engage in your work by directing attention to the positive aspects of your tasks.

As I write this, I’m wearing a sweatshirt and leggings, no make-up, hair unbrushed, listening to classical music on the radio aloud, (no need for headphones.)

I don’t have to get dressed or waste hours commuting, crammed into a crowded train or traffic or subway, leaping pools of icy water and slush.

I don’t have to pretend to like mean co-workers or a bullying boss.

I’ll go to the gym when it suits me, or go for a walk, or (rarely) even go to an afternoon movie. The freedom to set my schedule matters enormously to me.

I usually eat all three meals at home, saving time, money and calories. My husband is home today as well, sorting through a mountain of 2016 receipts to make sure we get every possible tax deduction from our combined freelance incomes.

Do I enjoy my work?

IMG_20160617_102113083 (2)

Yes, I do. But I also clearly enjoy the conditions in which I perform it.

What do I still love about writing, editing and teaching?

— Meeting and speaking with an amazing array of people, from Queen Elizabeth to convicted felons to Olympic athletes.

— At best, working with smart, tough editors and clients who expect high levels of skill and emotional intelligence.

— Finding and sharing complex stories with millions of readers.

— Learning something new with every story I write, whether pension reform, utility deregulation, air turbulence, Broadway stagehand work or apotropaic traditions in house construction.

— Connecting worldwide with fellow writers, some of whom are generous enough to share referrals and clients with me (and vice versa.)

— Meeting smart younger writers through my blog and Twitter.

— Helping others think more clearly and communicate more effectively. Here’s my website, with my classes.

— Intellectual freedom.

That’s not even a complete list!

How about you?

Do you love your work?

If not, what’s your exit strategy?

34 thoughts on “Do you enjoy your work?

  1. I’m working on loving my work, but I have two part time jobs–one I’m growing to despise, and one I like despite the lack of sleep when I do work and lack of days to work (it’s a weekend position most of the time). I’m also determined to sort through my writing and find the things I love about writing, what captured my interest and made me want to tell the stories on the pages. They all got rejected initially, and many do need work…so a blessing in disguise. But I need to find that mindset before oodles of stress killed my creativity and made me set it all aside for two months like “bah humbug!” Well, today’s actually the perfect rainy piece-of-crud day to do that…at least until I get to that one job later (grumble grumble).

    Should my revitalized love of writing take off, improve, and make me successful, I can just keep working at what I love instead of hanging onto a job just because without it I could barely pay a bill. That’s my 2017 goal: get writing, make it a good habit, and definitely make it a career.

    1. I think we’ve all had (many) jobs that just pay the bills. Bills need to be paid! Every month! On time!

      I did a retail blog for Forbes for 4 miserable months last year because…it was income. I finally quit in disgust and within days had a much better paying gig, and without the anger and bitterness of hating the work. It’s how life goes sometimes.

      Writing as a career is about the least likely to produce a steady, solid income imaginable — unless you do technical writing or have a niche and well-paying clients. It’s a fantasy for many many people, but pro’s know how very difficult it is.

      1. ah, so true. And I wouldn’t want to give up all my part-time work, especially not the one I love. But I would like wiggle room so that I can quit the one I hate and take time finding a better part-time job to help with the bills while I write. I have zero wiggle room right now and the anxiety closes in when I should be relaxed and thinking about writing. That’s what makes it tough. Even if I became a best-seller, I’d still want to be working other jobs (it’s inspiration!)

  2. I’ve had a few jobs in my lifetime, I enjoyed. A MAJORITY OF THEM, For multiple reasons. I started out enjoying them, and became bored. Once I hit the boredom phase, it’s the beginning of the end.

    Perhaps my career choices have not been what they should be. Micromanagement does not work for me. Give me the tools to do my job, and let me do it. You won’t be disappointed. I have been in Customer Service, in some capacity or another for most of my adult working life. I enjoy helping other people.
    I would likely do better if I could find self employment in a Customer Service related field. I’m embarking on a new career choice next week. Here’s hoping….

    1. Good luck! There are few jobs LESS micro-managed than customer service, that’s for sure — so that is a poor fit for you in one regard. I was stunned by the constant surveillance and suspicion of us when I worked retail. Very demoralizing.

  3. I tell my sons often–do what you love. The money will come if you love what you do. And it may be lots, or just enough–but either way, a happy life is worth it. I have one that may go into the trades and another who wants to be a cardiovascular surgeon. I have no bias for or against either job. Because I just love seeing them light up as they get to use their hands and their brains in the way they were meant to . . .

    1. I agree with you in principle — I’m less enamored of “do what you love and the $$$ will follow.” It will, but it might be a lot less $$$$$$ than you need or want, especially if you want goodies like car/house/multiple children.

      So deep job satisfaction (as many in lower-paying fields know well) can come at a financial cost.

  4. singlemumstories

    Oh how I agree with you!

    Especially the part about being of help and being needed and appreciated to people again. I too, was ostracised and bullied to tears every day in my prior job. It was hell.

    Now, I’m now self employed (worked hard for it!) I volunteer for sole parents and am writing a book for sole parents to get a non-for-profit organisation started.

    If I can help, inspire and encourage other sole parents who are where I used to be, I will be happy.

    My life isn’t easy (2 kids, 1 dog, work part time, volubteer, study part time and am writing a book for sole parents) however I love my life, schedule and the freedom!

    I feel blessed to work hard and enjoy the perks of having time to myself when I allow myself to rest (hehe see my latest post on rest and it’s importance!)

    As always, respect and love your work and writing. Peace! πŸ™‚

  5. I’ve been trying to find an appropriate job – appropriate for paying the bills, that is – since Sept. The search hasn’t been easy at all (some ageism involved I believe, and I’ve redesigned my resume because of that) and the emergency fund is now gone so finding something soon would be good! I guess you could say that mine is more of an entry plan. πŸ™‚ My husband’s dad used to say that the only thing worse than having a job was not having one. πŸ™‚

    1. Ouch. Really sorry to read this…I agree that it’s super-stressful when you need to find work, and find it quickly. The whiff of desperation is deadly…

      There is tremendous ageism out there and it’s a real issue that no one in HR or the government ever addresses. It’s illegal and immoral and hurting millions of us.

  6. I like my job a lot. I’m doing good work by promoting diversity and helping people with disabilities in my organization, and the people around me are very nice and know how to laugh. And I get very good pay and benefits too.
    Though if I have the chance, I’d like to write full-time someday.

  7. I turn 50 this August. I work in Logistics now for an international company. A good company, that I’m proud to work for. I drive a forklift, climb ladders, lift heavy boxes, work with men AND women, most half my age. I bike to work – 30 minutes there and back, which I started doing back this last June when I first came upon my lovely vintage Supercycle that I call Rose.

    However, only because in early fall of 2015 I woke up one day and took the bus to work, walked into HR at the horrid call centre I’d worked for 2 years, and calmly told them that I quit. And…I had barely enough in the bank to cover my rent and some bills…and then I’d be broke. It all worked out, and through kismet or mere chance, I found something just perfect for me. A type of work that I would never have dreamed I could do. I guess I just had enough and decided I’d rather live under a bridge with my dog then waste one more moment of my life in that place.

    I live simply, I bike to work, haul, lift, walk, laugh, and really put my back into it…go home, walk the dog, write poetry, blog, and take Photographs with my new Nikon I was able to buy last fall with my profit sharing money. The best part? Well, that was on Christmas Eve when I arrived home, after visiting with some friends, and my post Focusing was featured. WOOT WOOT. : ) What a journey.

    1. LOVE this! Good for you, Paula. I’ve walked out of a few toxic jobs, equally terrified — and it’s the right choice. So happy this has worked out so well for you.

      I was very surprised to learn how satisfying retail work could be. That was a powerful lesson.

      WOOT WOOT indeed!

  8. I’m reminded of something I heard/read many times while studying Buddhist teachings: it’s not the work itself; it’s choosing how you feel about the work. In essence, you can choose to be content doing anything (sweeping or doing dishes is often the example used because those are mundane chores in Buddhist monasteries) or you can choose to be bored or hate it.

    As with all of these teachings, they are fairly easy to understand and incredibly difficult to practice! 😐

  9. Jose has been a Buddhist for a while now, so I’m familiar with this. I agree. I do think, clearly, some jobs are very very tough, physically and emotionally, and when they are low-wage, it’s an extra burden that seems very unfair to me.

    It’s one thing to re-frame work, another to not be able to live decently and save money no matter how hard you work.

  10. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Friday links | A Bit More Detail

  11. Corin

    I’ve been at my job since 2003 and am absolutely MISERABLE here! I have NO ESCAPE!!! I am paid very well and my household depends on my paycheck. I’m STUCK! FOREVER! I need an escape plan QUICK!!! Thank you for sharing this. I very much enjoyed the read!

      1. Corin

        I’ve been searching but this town is really the issue. Pay in this town is very low. It took me many years to get to where I am now in pay.

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