Recently, I had drinks with some friends and a few of their friends. Eager to get to know new people, I started chatting with one particular person about her job. Her responsibilities include riding boats with fishermen to regulate the environmental impact of their work.
After browsing through gorgeous pictures of her daily travels, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Your job looks like so much fun!”
When I told her what I do—which is mainly sit at a desk and write stuff—it suddenly felt a lot less cool and exciting.
Saddled with that newfound distaste for my seemingly boring desk job, I quickly reminded myself of something important: No job is fun all of the time.
You may say, “But Alyse, what about Netflix watchers or ice cream tasters? What about people who work on movie sets, in breweries, or for video game companies?”
To which I’d respond, sure, those could be fun—I’d have no reason to think otherwise (hit me up when I change careers to work at Ben and Jerry’s). But, you know what’s far more likely? They’re also hard work, like any other job.
I have a friend who has in fact worked on a movie set. He’ll be the first to tell you that seeing famous people up close and being part of a film coming to fruition is pretty thrilling, but he’d also admit that his day-to-day work was surprisingly uneventful.
Your job can and should be a lot of things—fulfilling, energizing, rewarding, challenging—but it doesn’t always have to be fun. And you shouldn’t expect it to be.
This isn’t to say that you won’t (or shouldn’t) be happy in your career, or that you won’t have exciting moments. Interviewing one of the first undocumented lawyers in NY state and turning our work area into a creepy carnival for our company’s Halloween desk decorating competition were truly fun experiences I’ve had on the job.
My point is that your role isn’t necessarily meant to be a 24/7 enjoyable experience—that’s why you get a paycheck for doing it. Your job will never (and isn’t meant to!) inspire the same sense of glee that say, riding a roller coaster, watching a football game, or partying with your friends on a Friday night does. And think about it: If riding roller coasters was your day job, wouldn’t it eventually become less fun? Watching Netflix on the weekends can be a blast, but if it was an obligation five days a week, don’t you think it’d lose that appeal?
When I reconnected with that friend of a friend at another gathering, I asked her how her job was going. This time, I didn’t immediately jump in to say something about how awesome her latest trip looked, and I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I let her vent about some of the more frustrating parts of her role (see, even she has them!) and we talked about her long-term plans.
Remember, what’s considered fun is different for everyone, and it exists both inside and outside the workplace. But it’s not a constant and ever-present force. Realistically, you can’t enjoy yourself all of the time—no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
I’ll end on this note: Be OK with a career that isn’t always fun. Focus on the things that matter more—cultivating the skills and interests you value, making change that means something to you, and interacting with people who make you feel good. It’s this stuff that proves that your career is about way more than just having a good time.