Take a deep breath. This may be hard to take. I’m going to be completely honest with you.
You deserve to work at a job you love.
And the job you love probably won’t be the top paying job you’ve been imagining – but that’s a good thing.
People tend to forget that they’re entitled to a job that makes them happy. As Paul Graham writes in his essay, How to Do What You Love, “When I was a kid, it seemed as if work and fun were opposites by definition. Life had two states: some of the time adults were making you do things, and that was called work; the rest of the time you could do what you wanted, and that was called playing.”
Forget that way of thinking. Your career is a huge part of your life and should be fun. As the highest paid businesspeople will tell you, financial freedom comes from doing what you love.
The career of your dreams is attainable. But you must focus on career development, rather than the size of your paycheck.
So stop searching for “top paying jobs” in Google. Beyond a certain threshold, psychologists have found, higher and higher salaries do not increase your happiness. So you shouldn’t be gunning for the top paying jobs. You should be aiming for the top fulfilling jobs.
“Career development” focuses on long-term goals: landing the job that will make you smile every day until you retire. It means turning down a job that pays well because it doesn’t help your future plans. Otherwise, you will never land a job you love – and may set yourself up for misery. How much misery? About 100,000 hours at a job you hate – the amount of time you’ll work between the end of college and retirement.
As Po Bronson explains in a Fast Company article, What Should I Do With My Life: “The reality is, making money is such hard work that it changes you. It requires more sacrifices than anyone expects. You become so emotionally invested in that world — and psychologically adapted to it — that you don’t really want to ditch it.” This is why it’s so important to start your entire career on the right foot: if you don’t, the work world may start to instill in you a tendency toward money-dominated thinking. Once you’re in that mindset, it’s hard to get out.
You want to think about what you want to devote your life to as early as possible, before the corporate world turns you into another highly paid drone that comes home every day with a headache and no energy.
A lifetime of increased happiness awaits if you approach employment as career development – not simply finding a top paying job.
While you can’t quantify happiness on a scale, you can easily quantify a $2,000 paycheck. And that’s exactly why high-paying jobs suck: they lure you in with the promise of financial stability, which we wrongly equate with happiness. Doing what we love will keep us happy in the long run, ages after that paycheck has been spent and forgotten. A large salary should take a back seat to compatibility with your career goals when prioritizing what you want out of a job.
So stop thinking, “I’m looking for a top paying job.” It’s time for a new motto: “I am matching my long-term goals with the current career marketplace. How can this job offer make my life more meaningful, now or in the future?” This new motto will allow you to work on projects that relate to your core competencies and passions, building your personal brand.
That’s career development. And that’s where a fulfilling work life begins.