Job Goal: Doing What You Love, or Loving What You Do?

I heard a presentation by Jean Chatzky about her new book, The Difference. It sounds like a good book on personal finance, but one item in particular caught my ear.  She said that instead of focusing on doing what you love, you could focus on loving what you do.

I've known plenty of displaced executives who bought the "do what you love" story and applied for jobs at the sports apparel company in my town.  That company was inundated with resumes from talented people with great business skills who also loved sports.  As a result, the company picked the cream of the crop, at relatively low salaries. If you're willing to work cheap because you may get a glimpse of Tiger Woods walking past your cubicle, go for it.  Or, try to go for  it.  The competition for the job will be brutal.

The other approach is to love what you do.  Last week I spoke to a group of accounts payable managers.  Now, I've asked plenty of children what they want to be  when they grow up, and not a single one has every said, "An accounts payable manager."  Heck, I haven't even heard anyone say "Accounts receivable manager."  Yet these people like their work.  At the cocktail reception, they were having exciting conversations about the latest trends in AP systems.  I have to believe that they get paid better for working in mundane occupations, at mundane corporations, than the people who do glamour work for glamour companies.

How do these people get excited about a mundane job?  Jean says, "Fake it until you make it."  Meaning, pretend that it's interesting and exciting, act like its a job you love, and you'll come to love  it. I would say, consider it a challenge.  How can I do this better?  Can I reduce the time it takes me to perform a task?  Can I reduce my error rate?  Can I coach another employee to be better at the job?  Can I provide even better service?  Can I help my boss succeed?  In most jobs, there are challenges all around, for the person who takes notice.

So don't focus on what you think you like now.  You can love any job.  Go for the decidedly unglamourous.  You may be the only one to apply for the job at the sewage treatment plant.  Believe me, I've known a sewage treatment professional, and when I asked about his work, he babbled on for 20 minutes with the look of a man who loved his job.