Doing work that makes you feel good is the key to a good career.
When I first started thinking about how I wanted my career to go, my instinct was to think about the goals and milestones that I wanted to achieve. For a career in writing, for instance, I thought about how that would progress onto editing, and where that would take me.
This type of thinking can be helpful because it encourages ambition. If you want to do great things, then having at least some idea of where you want to be in the future can be helpful. Knowing that, at some point, you want to become an editor, can help anchor your career.
At the same time, it is important not to lose sight of what a career actually is. A career is the work you do on a day to day basis. A career is a series of jobs.
It’s easy to glorify the idea of a “career.”
Colleges certainly do a number on this idea, touting that certain factors constitute a good career. Security makes for a good career. So does a fancy job title. And prestige. High schools teach similar paths to their “ambitious” students too.
But a career is not about titles or progression or security. It’s about doing the work that you want to do, every day.
The truth is that most of the days in your career will not be special. I vaguely remember the day that I got offered the job I have today. I know that it was a very special day. (At the time, I knew that, in only a few weeks, I would be leaving school now that I was employed. I was liberated, and felt like an adult.)
The specifics of that day are difficult to recall. That’s because, while it was a great day, it was a special, one-off type of day. It’s not often that you find a job, because most people do not change jobs very often. It’s not often that you get a promotion either, because those often take either months or years to earn.
In my career, I want to optimize for doing the work that makes me feel good. I know that it is tempting to focus on what’s next: the promotion that I would love, or the new job at a bigger company that could offer me a higher salary. Those things don’t matter to me though.
What matters is that, on a daily basis, I am doing work that I enjoy. Indeed, there may be other jobs out there that pay more, or offer more responsibilities. Right now I am happy where I am though, and even if I could be doing more to advance my “career,” I feel like the best place for me is where I am today.
I know that everyday I have to work. I need to wake up in the morning, every weekday, and say to myself “these are my goals.” The thing I want in my life is for those goals to feel meaningful to me, even if they are not in pursuit of a promotion or further advancement.
My guiding philosophy in careers is to spend your time doing things you love. There are other jobs out there that may be able to offer more. But taking more means you have to give more, and what you end up giving may not necessarily be what you want to give.
I spend most of my days doing one of two things: writing, or helping out with product. These are the two work-related tasks that I want to fill my day. Writing makes me feel great, and product work is a new frontier of learning for me.
Do work that makes you feel good; that you are proud to do. Don’t do work just because it sounds good on a resume, or because it will position you to achieve some arbitrary goal you have set yourself. After all, the work which you take on will have to be done. Do you really want to spend your days working on things you don’t enjoy, just because it may help you get to where you think you should be at some point in the future?