My daughters are both at stages of young careers where frustrations about money and work/life balance have them wondering what they can expect in a job.
Here’s what I tell them. There are three basic things most of us prioritize in our work/life decisions: passion, paycheck, or play – the ability to work for what you love, how much money you can make, or how much free time you can have.
As is so often the case, pick two.
A labor of love that delivers a great paycheck probably isn’t going to leave a lot of free time.
A 9-to-5 job that’s super easy is probably not going to deliver a great paycheck
And if you’re lucky enough to earn a good paycheck in a job that demands nothing of you outside of work hours, it’s likely not going to be a career of passion, but just a job.
Most of us, especially early in our careers, will get to pick two, sometimes even just one of those.
But no matter which one or two we have, we all want to know we have the ability to work toward, and ultimately achieve, those other things.
And that leads to a fourth thing on the list that’s non-negotiable -- the one thing we should never, ever give up in a job; possibilities. The ability to learn, see a future – career growth.
Possibilities (or potential ) is what makes working those entry level jobs worthwhile. It’s what makes the lean years tolerable; the grunt work manageable; the off-hours work acceptable. Seeing something better is what keeps us in jobs, and keeps us doing good work. People need to be able to see how they can move (up or across) and that it’s been done before. They need to be able to see a future where they can feel passion for what they do, earn the paycheck they want, and have reasonable freedom for play. They need cultures and managers and infrastructures that support people – and so growth. Without that, the jobs people do today are just places they work for…for now.
What qualifies as enough money, enough free time, enough passion? That’s in the eye of the beholder. You want the so-called “Hustle culture”? Go for it. Want free time for music or climbing? Do it.
There’s no good or bad. What people prioritize will likely change – and change back – depending on where they are in their lives.
But we all want something better. That will never change. The desire to see a place where we could achieve all three? That will never change. It’s the reason people so often choose the company over the job.
Most people understand there’s a reason a job is called “work” – and that goals take time. And they’re willing to sacrifice to get there.
But in the end – it has to be worth it.
The potential for something better, and the help to achieve it – that makes sure it is.