By ALBERT MEIJER
My boss looked me dead in the eyes when she asked me: but do you love working here?
I looked around her office. The plants were looking fine, a rainbow of colour-coded folders fought history books and personal trinkets for attention, the sun was shining outside and all was well in the world. But did I love working here, at this university? I lied and told my boss: yes, I do.
Sure enough, most of my colleagues seemed to love working here. They ran around the building, from appointment to appointment, worked over-hours with a smile, and would happily answer my e-mails in the middle of the night or on weekends. Not me. I clocked out after my shift was done, and rarely felt the need to open my work inbox in the weekends.
Some colleagues pitied my seeming lack of commitment. But the thing was, I was good at my job, and fully committed during my working hours. I liked my job. I just didn’t love it. And over the years, I saw many of these colleagues burnt up, burnt out and forced to be on the back burner for a while. They loved their work so much that it wasn’t good for them, and in the end prohibited them from doing their job.
Growing up in Western Europe in the nineties, my generation was optimistic about the future. The economy was booming, we had all the freedom in the world, and our parents and reality TV were telling us to follow our hearts, that would lead us naturally to the dream job we always wanted.
Twenty years down the road, I realise that that was a bit optimistic. Sure, we had a lot of opportunities, but the world wasn’t waiting for a generation of freelance artists, zookeepers and dolphin trainers. Look at any job website, and you will see which qualities the job market wants us to be passionate about: being good at Excel, having knowledge of CRM system, and being somewhat experienced with invoicing software.
Sure, I don’t love updating CRM systems and archiving meeting notes – but who does?
Should you give up on loving your work? No! But be realistic too. For me, the joy of life is not to have an office job. But it does pay the bills. After my university job, I decided to work part-time in an office that I like, with tasks I don’t mind and with colleagues I get along with. The rest of the week, I work as a freelance writer, teacher, singer and even doing practical stuff like selling candy floss at festivals. None of these things give me joy if I’d have to do them every single day. But in their variety, and even with some money coming in with them, I enjoy each task. Even if it’s related to CRM systems.
So, job searchers out there, here’s my advice: don’t get stuck in finding the perfect job, as it doesn’t exist. Just find something you like.
Albert Meijer (The Netherlands, 1986) combines an office job in the cultural field with freelance writing, teaching and making music. He lives in Brussels.