Can You Learn To Love Your Job?


Let’s first establish this: Do you love your job? If your answer is yes, hurray! We’ll let you get back to it. If your answer is no, then you’re in the majority. An 87% majority worldwide to be precise.

Type into Google, “Can you learn to love your…” and autocomplete brings back “job” as the top result, above “husband” and “wife”. Good news for marital bliss (and Valentine’s Day), not such good news for the workers of the world.

learn to love your job

But it is a very good question to ask. For many unhappy in work, the natural solution is to find a new job or make a career change. In many ways it’s the easier option. Starting a new job brings with it anticipation of opportunity, fulfilment and happiness. Perhaps this time you’ll fall head over heels. Perhaps this one is the one.

This approach can, of course, result in crushing disappointment.

Sticking it out and learning to love your job is probably the harder option. But if you have the discipline to put yourself through the process, you’re more likely to find happiness in work, whether in this job or the next.

So, can you learn to love your job?

Explore flow, freedom and meaning

In his book How to Find Fulfilling Work, Roman Krznaric studies the working lives of people from all walks of life and from different periods in history. From Wall Street analysts to beekeepers; pioneering scientists to civil servants. From this he finds three essential elements for fulfilling work:

  1. Flow: an ability to experience complete and unselfconscious absorption in what you are doing.
  2. Freedom: the independence to live and work the way you choose.
  3. Meaning: an underlying purpose that motivates you to do what you do; whether it be earning money, achieving status, making a difference, following your passion or using your talents.

Now there are some big philosophical concepts in here. Take meaning; working out what it is that motivates you out of these factors could be a huge task in itself. And we won’t be able to resolve our need for meaning, flow and freedom all in one go. But we can use these concepts as a framework to get to more out of our job, and over time, get us to a place where we are happy and fulfilled by our work.

So with the aim of learning to love your current job ask yourself some questions and then set about making small changes to the way you work. For example:

  1. Flow: When do you feel in flow at work? What activity are you doing? How can you do more of this type of work?
  2. Freedom: How can you change the way you work to fit around how you want to live and work? It could be that you request a remote day once a week. Or it could be as simple as listening to music while you work.
  3. Meaning: How could you make a difference to your teammates? What can you teach them? What talents do you have? How can you apply them to your work?

Try it out. A small change to the way you work or the relationship you have with your teammates can have a big impact on your experience of work.

If nothing else, going through this process will help you get more clarity on what it is that motivates you and keeps you happy.

Cut out some choices

Today, the number of choices we have in all areas of life is overwhelming. And work is no exception. Wherever we are working, there’s always somewhere else we could be. Another company, another role, another career altogether. And if you’re not happy at work, all of these options can play on your mind.

A few years ago a very close friend of mine was in this situation. He was working as a senior director for a global company in the finance industry, but he was unhappy. Around the same time, a few of his peers from university founded a startup in a related field. He was attracted to the flexibility and uncertainty of their new working lives. He talked about leaving his job to go and work in a startup. But before he did, he ran an experiment:

He took a week of annual leave and went to volunteer for his mates in their new business. After the week was up he went back to his job and never mentioned the idea of working in a startup again.

Running this test had helped him appreciate everything he loved about where he was; the trips to the other side of the world; the exposure to industry leaders and the status that came with it.

If you have an idea playing the back of your mind of what you’d rather be doing then test it out. You could end up deciding that you do like, even love your job now. On the flipside, if you decide you want to pursue it further, you will have already have valuable experience behind you.

Become a wide achiever

For many of us, particularly high achievers, our identity is closely tied to our work. If you are one of these people, then making any decision around your career is about far more than making a decision about where you go to work every day. It’s about defining who you are.

This testimonial in How to Find Fulfilling Work from a 20-something who starts to question her career choices, captures the predicament this can put us in:

I was really scared about contemplating anything but law. Law identified me; indeed, I thought it defined me. A lot of lawyers are like this – it’s your label, it’s who you are. To lose that label was going to make me feel completely empty. If you’re not a lawyer, what are you? Who are you?

… I could see that I was getting myself into a downward spiral of job-related despair, but I didn’t know how to fix it. I literally went to Google and typed in something like ‘What to do if you hate your career’.

One way to loosen the ties between your job and your identity is to become a wide achiever and do more than one job. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking on another paid role (although you could end up earning some cash).

Write a blog, volunteer or startup a small online business. In fact, you don’t even need to start anything new, you can just reframe what you already do. That swim you did last night? That was you in your job as a swimmer. That dinner party you threw at the weekend? You were just doing your job as a chef.

If you can detach your identity from your primary career then you will reduce the need for it to live up to all your hopes and dreams. Then once you’re more relaxed, you might even learn to love it.

Image credit: Pexels

Tim Mullen

Tim is Co-Founder and Head of Customer Experience at Jobvibe. We help teams work better together. Jobvibe is a simple, smart mobile platform to gather real-time feedback from your team, openly discuss results and improve the way you work together.