I finished up my Masters about 5 years ago, initially wanted to enter into clinical psychology. I began preparing myself in terms of getting the right experience. Along the way, I spent a long time in clinical research rubbing shoulders with different professions within healthcare and being exposed to the healthcare machine as I would perhaps come to realise it had I followed my original plan. I ditched my original career aspirations as I didn’t think they would satisfy me for what I was sacrificing myself for in terms of gaining experience over half a decade - this could not be made up with the slow progression and mediocre pay; not to mention the changing and depleting landscape of the NHS’s mental health sphere.
I recently quit my permanent job in research earlier this year - it was a dead end position where the only way up was getting a PhD and most likely being clueless at the end of it with poor pay and job security. Not to mention I decided against academia since what I’ve experienced so far to be a complete waste of time and egotistical driven most of which is fluff and actually has very little impact in ‘contribution’.
I am now 5 year post-graduation without a career planned out and very confused with the idea of following one’s ‘passion’ or ‘interests’. After lots of discussion with people, I’ve concluded that most people aren’t actually happy with the work they do, but perhaps with the perks, salary and the fact they have a job at all masks their internal dissatisfaction with their own lives and usually don’t want to talk about how their aspiration and ambitions in life are no longer feasible to pursue.
One thing I do feel I need to be part of is a real and direct positive impact to society. I’ve flirted with the idea of medicine for a few years now, and I have all the relevant experience to pursue it, BUT I don’t know whether it will bring me fulfilment and contentment. I’ve been told that it’s selfish to want to have fillings of satisfaction after being altruistic with my time via profession or donation - but isn’t that the human condition?
One interesting theory I came across earlier is that people become passionate about their jobs after spending time doing it and becoming better at it. But I can’t see how I can just randomly pick out a position I think might work and actively ‘love’ my job in the hope that it will do the same back.
In conclusion, I could do what everyone else is doing, find a decent job with progression, sell myself and make the company money, dislike my work life (but not talk about it), then eventually die and wonder why I didn't 'follow my dreams' - what ever that mean.
In my experience enjoying work has a number of requirements, sometimes competing.
1. Larger employers may pay better and have a career structure but it is harder to "own" what you do and therefore additional earnings, once you have had them for a while, can diminish in importance, they can stop satisfying like crisps; with a large bag by the end they are not as good as the first ones.
2. Smaller employers may pay less, there may be no formal progression, though large leaps to near the top are possible if you make a real contribution, you can easily be noticed. However slogging along on low pay with little ownership doing repetitive tasks can dull the glow that greater "ownership" might bring.
It is sometimes small cog in big wheel or bigger cog in small wheel syndrome.
Now I personally went route 2, however there is a lot to be said for starting on route 1 (in my case accountancy) and moving down once your training is cemented, what you learn re formal work process in the early years stays with you your whole career (Or it can)
Sometimes work grows on you (or you on it), I have been working a long time (32 years since finishing formal study, but in total now 41 years) and I have only had one position that was only 6 months when I have not enjoyed myself.
Another way to grow is to try to learn something new every day, or deal with something different, not always easy, the curve flattens over time, but if you can leave work thinking, I achieved x, changed y, learned z ,in my opinion you get to enjoy what you do,
And passion, well I never thought age 22-23 I would end up in accountancy, (Humanities first degree) but over time I grew to enjoy it, and all its facets, be they business finance, accounting itself or taxes (especially taxes), even learning stuff outwith the traditional role like health and safety, staff issues, legal issues-the key is a position with variety, it is this that gets me leaving the house not really having a clue what the day will bring.
I'm boxing off a PhD and teaching and some of it - not all - is stuff I might say I'm passionate about. So to me it works in degrees. I love the contact time and I love teaching, but some of the stuff I teach I find dull and tedious. Then once a year I get to teach a module on 'my' stuff, which I couldn't love any more. it balances itself out for me. I'd say I am doing something I'm passionate about... Mostly. Of course, a lot of academia now isn't very secure, but I'll take that as it comes.
I went back to uni late so I worked full time for years before doing the whole academia thing, and I have done some jobs I hated with every fibre of my being. Never going back to that again, whatever the money is.
Thanks for the comments.
I suppose there isn't really an answer for the challenge of knowing what to do with one's life. Having read some of the replies, it does appear that our 'interests', things we are pleased to get in involved with and spending our time doing, are things which we, as people, have a genuine curiosity about which combines with genuine interest which then manifests in what should be an ideal job.
I have also read that contribution plays a big part of satisfaction these days - in the Western world of increasing anti-social tendencies and the rise of the Goliath that is technology whose aim it is to disconnect us from one another as people. But as soon as you introduce this idea, the philosophers jump up and down and say altruism in itself is selfish as we're just out to make ourselves feel better - and that leaves us confused once again.
Through a lot of rumination, I have come to realise what might form as ingredients towards supplementing contentment as a being (because work isn't the only thing to bring satisfaction in our lives). Some of these are pursuing continuous personal growth and having a real life outside work, and when it comes to choosing a career or job, I think the best formula is to pursue something that is as close to the ideal career or job you want to do, and aim to be the best at it. And I think through the proactive love for the job, you may forget that you ever had an ideal job at all, because you'll soon realise that you're now in it and it's taking you to heights that you didn't first think possible when first starting out.