College students: go find a job you don’t like

If you find a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Or so the saying goes. If you truly enjoy the work you’re doing, it won’t feel like work. It might feel like discovery, play, or an interesting puzzle, but certainly not work.

The problem for most college students, though, is more basic than starting the career or job they love. They don’t even know what they love yet. Many don’t even know what they like. With the dozens of glitzy career choices in front of them, the solution is not usually as simple as walking confidently through a door into slam-dunk job. Most students haven’t even envisioned what such a job would look like.

The problem for most students, then, is envisioning what they are supposed to be shooting for. And that’s a lot of work!

The great nonfiction writer Sebastian Junger, whose direct, declarative writing style is often compared to Ernest Hemingway, was once asked by an interviewer how he developed such potent prose. He responded by explaining that he read writing he didn’t like and then thought about why, exactly, it didn’t appeal to him. Once Sebastian had narrowed down exactly what he didn’t care for, it became crystal clear to him what style of writing he needed to pursue. If he would have started out with the mindset that he needed to find exactly the kind of writer he was going to be, it would have been a much more difficult task.

Similarly, the best way to find out what we do enjoy is to discover what we don’t.

Almost everyone will have jobs they don’t enjoy. Get those out of the way early in your post-college career so you can be on your way to figuring out the things that truly get you going. If you see something you like during your job search, move boldly toward it. Take the job confidently, do your best, and see what happens. There are several scenarios that could play themselves out:

  1. You love the job. Congratulations, you’ve found a job you love.
  2. You hate the job. Congratulations. It’s great that this early in your career, you have clarity as to what you should pursue going forward.
  3. Your job’s alright. Congrats, you now have a treasure trove of data on the things you do and don’t enjoy doing. Use that as you move forward in your career from this point on.

Finding a job you don’t like can be an unexpected gift. It creates clarity, gives you opportunities to learn and grow, and can teach you perseverance.

Go find a job you don’t like! It might be the fastest route to the job you do.

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