Treat Your Career like a Bad Boyfriend

I’ve been thinking a lot about careers and work lately as Chris makes a big life leap and I gear up for maternity leave.

And when it comes to “career”, I’ve always felt that 99% of motivational job advice/inspirational sayings/positive affirmations are ineffective because of the following 2 reasons:

1. THEY FOSTER MORE PRESSURE: We put too much pressure on our jobs to fulfill us in every way to begin with, so job advice rhetoric just exacerbates that pressure. (Like this, this or this).

2. THEY MAKE YOU FEEL MORE LOST: Most of us just really aren’t 1000% sure what we want to do. (So again, career advice along the lines of “just give yourself completely to what you love”, just makes people feel more lost and shitty because they don’t know what they love).

But I recently found some quality career advice that takes off some of the expectations and pressure, and doesn’t require you to “know what your passion is”. It’s from the wise and wonderful Amy Poehler in her book YES PLEASE, and it goes like this: Treat your career like a bad boyfriend (ie: be ambivalent to your career).

“Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. It’s never going to leave its wife. Your career is fucking other people and everyone knows it but you…Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole. Depending on your career is like eating cake for breakfast and wondering why you start crying an hour later.”

“I will say it again, ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look…You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, “I made it!” You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and a total fraud on the other.”

“Ambivalence can help tame the beast. Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don’t depend on it. It will reward you every time you don’t act needy. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you. If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else.”

All I have to say is, YES PLEASE! Thank you Amy Poehler for advice that isn’t necessarily easy, but at least helpful and not 100% anxiety inducing.


Ps. Amy does make the clear distinction between CAREER and CREATIVITY that is also worth noting and always keeping in mind (Yes the words “passion” and “doing what you love” are involved, but the point is that they can be different, and not necessarily intertwined):

“Let me make a distinction between career and creativity. Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, “I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.” That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less along in the world. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm older Hispanic lady who has a beautiful laugh and loves to hug. If you are even a little bit nice to her she will make you feel great and maybe cook you delicious food”.