Do You Need to Love Your Job to Be Happy at Your Job?

Man working at desk

Pictured: Man working at desk over abstract background/Taylor Tieden for BioSpace

You’ve likely heard the saying that if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. But do you need to love your job to be happy at your job? 

Based on her experience coaching hundreds of clients, the answer is no, said Porschia Parker-Griffin, founder and CEO of Fly High Coaching. However, she told BioSpace, to be happy at work, most people are receiving some sort of positive aspect or benefit that’s important to them, such as: 

  • Earning a salary that meets their expectations. 

  • Receiving valuable health or other employment benefits. 

  • Working in a positive company culture.  

  • Doing challenging work that interests them. 

“So, for most people, if they’re receiving one—if not a myriad—of those things, they could be happy at work and not necessarily love their job,” Parker-Griffin said. 

Overemphasizing Loving Your Job

While passion for the job has seemed to become important for employees looking to get ahead, according to an article in The Economist, Parker-Griffin said some put too much emphasis on loving their job. She noted that loving work can mean different things to different people. Some might feel the job has more positives than negatives, leaving them excited and enthusiastic about going to work every day. Others might have favorable feelings about the company itself.  

However someone defines loving their job, Parker-Griffin noted, “I think it’s important for people to understand that in any job or situation, there will be aspects that you might not like, so understanding that and weighing that out with the overall experience that you get at a job or from your employer is vital to consider.” 

Why, exactly, do people put too much importance on loving their job? Parker-Griffin said a common reason is they’re comparing themselves to others: family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers or people they see on social media platforms, including LinkedIn.  

“Someone could actually like their job but then kind of feel inadequate just based on looking at or hearing someone else’s experience,” she said. 

It’s OK If You Don’t Love Your Job

If you don’t love your job, that’s OK, according to Parker-Griffin. She noted that the average person will have multiple positions in their lifetime, and odds are, they won’t love all of them.  

It’s also worth noting there are benefits to not loving your job. 

“Just liking your job as opposed to loving it can really help you maintain your identity as a person,” Parker-Griffin said. “It’s amazing to see how many people have wrapped up their sense of identity, self-worth and importance in their job. And sometimes, that can cause negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors to affect your mental health.” 

Parker-Griffin added that just liking your job can help you maintain boundaries, as you don’t necessarily feel obligated to work overtime or bring work home with you, helping to prevent burnout. 

Being Happy at Your Job

While it’s OK to not love your job, Parker-Griffin said it’s important to find a sense of happiness at work as part of your overall wellness, citing the concept of flourishing. 

“Flourishing is in essence thriving in your entire life, not just work,” she explained. “When people dig deeper into the components of flourishing, they’re usually thinking about positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. And so, some of that can definitely come from your job, and some of it doesn’t. But all of those things can affect your mental health and your physical health.” 

If you’re having difficulty finding happiness at work, Parker-Griffin said to look for the positives in your situation. She recommended starting by thinking in terms of gratitude, such as being grateful you have a job and are generating income. 

Next, she said, think about the organization where you work, how it benefits the people it serves and how you contribute to that. 

If you’re unhappy with your role and responsibilities, Parker-Griffin recommended talking to your manager. She said perhaps you can cross-train in other areas of the company or evaluate your career development path, which could lead to transferring to another department or changing jobs

Getting Help If You’re Struggling

If you’re struggling with the notion of loving or even just liking your job or are questioning your career overall, Parker-Griffin recommended talking to a therapist, career coach, mentor or other adviser instead of friends, family members or co-workers. She explained that talking to people close to you can lead to venting, which creates a negative feedback loop of information. As a result, she said, you could feel bad about yourself, which isn’t productive. 

“But getting some outside professional advice from someone—and when I say outside, I mean someone who’s not in your organization or deeply ingrained in your personal life—I think that can really be one of the best places to start this conversation,” Parker-Griffin said. 

Angela Gabriel is content manager, life sciences careers, at BioSpace. You can reach her at angela.gabriel@biospace.com and follow her on LinkedIn

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