8 Feb 2013
Your job is going to suck.
Not all the time, of course. But some of the time. You’re going to do things you don’t like, sometimes. You’re going to do things you don’t love, most of the time.
Imagine your dream job. Let’s say you want to be a rock star. A rock star! You love music, you love performing, you love fans, you love groupies. How much of your time do you spend actually doing what you love? Ten percent? Let’s be generous and say you spend twenty-five percent of your time actually being a rock star. A quarter of the time you spend working is spent actually performing music for your adoring fans, and reaping the other associated benefits.
What happens the rest of the time? Long lonely bus rides or plane rides to dreary towns, where you stay in faceless hotels. Frustrating arguments with bandmates. Interminable hours spent trying to write new music, questioning whether your next album will be as good as the last one. Soul-deadening meetings with corporate A&R types, the vampires of your industry. Self-doubt, magnified by the sharp words of music critics. Your job, it sucks.
And that’s if you’re a rock star. But the same is true (in varying proportions) whether you’re a waiter or a designer or a teacher or a developer.
Many of us are deeply committed to the work that we do, passionate about having found employment that so naturally maps to our skills, focused on making the world a better place by making better products for people to use. I’ve conducted hundreds of job interviews in my life, and I’ve developed an eye for the true believers. I joke that I can spot the naturals by the chip implanted in their brain that convinces them they were programmed from birth to think UX design is the perfect job for them.
And it’s not. It sucks. Some of the time.
If you’re doing work you like to do more than twenty-five percent of the time, you’re doing great. But I’m convinced the secret to real job satisfaction isn’t trying to maximize your time spent doing what you love. It’s learning to tolerate and accept the downsides. It’s being able to look the parts of the job you don’t like squarely in the eye and say “I can deal with you.”
Note that I didn’t say “love” the downsides. Or “embrace.” Or “transform into something you truly enjoy.” The parts of your job that suck are just that: sucky. You can’t wish them into something better. You are never going to like them.
Whatever it is about your job that you hate—whether it’s content inventories or detailed functional specifications or recruiting for usability tests or monthly invoicing or schmoozing potential clients at conferences—it doesn’t take away from the parts of your job that you truly love. Being frustrated that you sometimes have to do work that you hate shouldn’t make you question whether this is really the right job for you. If you’ve found work you enjoy (at least some of the time) then savor those times.
And quit bitching about the parts you hate. Everyone has them.
(This also holds true for your personal relationships, for the record.)