By Sean McManus
According to a recent survey conducted by the Conference Board, only 39 percent of Americans under the age of 25 are satisfied with their job. Personally, I blame my parents. When they woke up from the drug-induced Bacchanal that was the ‘60s and ‘70s and decided to go to work
, they were sending mixed messages. Utopian dreamers had morphed into eager corporatists and, like Stevo’s dad in the Gen X classic SLC Punk, they heralded the mantra, “I didn’t sell out, son. I bought in.” Sure, this change of heart paid for fancy private schools, a parade of new SUVs, and thousands of dollars a year in fraternity dues. But is working at a job that you hate a prerequisite for success? In this day of the enlightened corporation, shouldn’t it be possible to earn a good salary and still be happy?
Take a job hint from Steve Jobs.
Searching for an answer to the “Big Question” of life after college led me to a transcript of Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford in 2005. Jobs—aka the billionaire founder and CEO of both Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios—said that the reason personal computers have interesting typefaces is because he dropped out of Reed College to take a calligraphy class.
“You’ve got to find what you love,” Jobs said to the Internet zillionaires of tomorrow. “And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work…If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
Easy for him to say. What if your dream job has always been to be a lifeguard on a nude beach, a scuba-diving instructor, or an artificial inseminator at the zoo? These are three of Careerbuilder.com ’s “Most Unusual Jobs” and sure, they sound great. But how will that ever put food on the table?
Careerbuilder suggests that because even the most obscure gig can lead to success, we shouldn’t abandon our dreams. These days, playing online poker can lead to Vegas riches; airline pilots, after being trained by the Air Force for free, can eventually earn upwards of $300,000 a year and only work around eight days a month; advertising pays nothing at first, but after five or ten years, it can be both creative and lucrative; and construction planners may not earn much in the U.S., but they sure as hell do in Dubai. Even politics pays off at memoir time.
Even naïve artists holding out for fashion design or writing that killer screenplay should keep hope alive. Studies now show that talent is more made than born. That was the conclusion reached by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the authors of the bestselling book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. After studying the work of a Florida State University psychology professor, they wrote that success is the result of hard work and practice more than innate ability. In other words, talent is hi...