Why you should ditch ‘follow your passion’ careers advice

Why you should ditch(diCH) ‘follow your passion’ careers(kəˈrir) advice

A new book tackles(ˈtak(ə)l) the myth(miTH) that we should all love our work — it won’t love us back

By Emma Jacobs

“Work is supposed to bring us fulfilment, pleasure, meaning, even joy,” writes Sarah(ˈserə) Jaffe(ˈjafē) in her book, Work Won’t Love You Back. “The admonishment(ədˈmäniSHmənt) of a thousand inspirational(ˌinspəˈrāSH(ə)n(ə)l) social media posts to ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ has become folk(fōk) wisdom,” she continues.

Such platitudes(ˈpladəˌt(y)o͞od) suggest an essential(əˈsen(t)SHəl) truth “stretching(streCH) back to our caveperson(kāv) ancestors(ˈanˌsestər)”. But these fallacies(ˈfaləsē) create “stress, anxiety and loneliness(ˈlōnlēnəs)”. In short, the “labour(ˈlābər) of love . . . is a con(kän)”. This is the starting point of Ms Jaffe’s book, which goes on to show how the myth permeates(ˈpərmēˌāt) diverse(dəˈvərs, dīˈvərs) jobs and sectors.

The book serves(sərv) as a timely reminder(rəˈmīndər) of the importance of re-evaluating(ˌrēiˈvalyo͞oˌāt) that relationship. “The global pandemic made the brutality(bro͞oˈtalədē) of the workplace more visible,” the author tells me over the phone from Brooklyn, New York. Ms Jaffe, who is a freelance(ˈfrēˌlans) journalist(ˈjərn(ə)ləst) specialising(ˈspeSHəˌlīz) in work, points out that the past year of job losses(lôs, läs), anxiety about redundancy(rəˈdəndənsē), and excessive(ikˈsesiv) workloads has demonstrated(ˈdemənˌstrāt) to workers the truth: their job does not love them.

Work is under scrutiny(ˈskro͞otnē). The economic fallout of the pandemic has made a great many people desperate(ˈdesp(ə)rət) for paid work, disillusioned(ˌdisəˈlo͞oZHənd) with their jobs or burnt(bərnt) out — and sometimes all three. It has illuminated(iˈlo͞ominādəd) the stark differences between those who can work from the safety of their homes and those who cannot, including shop workers, carers and medical professionals, who have to put themselves in potentially hazardous(ˈhazərdəs) situations, often for meagre(ˈmēɡər) pay. The idea of self-sacrifice(ˈsakrəˌfīs), and that you should put your clients, your patients or your students before yourself, Ms Jaffe says, “gets laid on very thick(THik) [with] teachers or nurses(nərs)”.