The great Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The concept sounds so beautiful, so easy and so static.
When I was a child, I dreamed of a job that I would love forever. I was living in Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain, and my world was very narrow. The only foreign language I could study was Russian. The only way to travel and live exotic adventures was by reading books. I wanted to become a librarian or a Russian language teacher. Life was static and without many choices.
Then the wall fell down in the 1989, and nobody wanted to learn Russian anymore. My world opened up, and I decided to explore it, to live the adventures instead of reading about them. I studied international trade, worked in marketing, logistics and B2B sales, joined a tech start-up, moved to Belgium to earn my MBA and met a plenty of interesting people of different nationalities.
For a long time, I kept searching for a job I would love so much that it would not feel like working.
At the same time, the world had been changing. With the end of the black-and-white era, we entered a VUCA phase – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Important events have come and gone rapidly, have been difficult to predict, have had no cause-and-effect chain. The reality has been confusing. Technology keeps disrupting the status quo, and yesterday’s winners have become today’s losers.
What does this mean for people who are looking for a job to love?
Have you noticed the pace of movies made 50 years ago? They were so slow. Now movies are almost like computer games, jumping from one scene to another, taking shortcuts to get us to the end quicker with more information, more excitement and more visual stimulation. We look for jobs to love, but it is difficult to stick to only one job forever when we are overwhelmed with opportunities at our fingertips and led to believe every decision we make must propel us ahead of the pack in this information age.
Companies need to adapt to the VUCA world, so they reinvent themselves more often than ever before. How often has your employer reorganized, and what happened when they did? Did you get a new boss, new colleagues, new processes to follow? You’re forced to start over and over again, until the next reorganization, making it harder to keep the job you love, even if you find it.
Jobs are as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous as the world. One day you have a job; the next day you don’t. Your job today might require a different skill set tomorrow. The context of your job (colleagues, boss, company, working conditions, etc.) keeps changing so quickly that it requires more and more energy to follow and adapt.
What I have realized with all the different jobs I’ve held is that VUCA jobs offer an unmatched opportunity:
A loved job can become a hated job, but a hated job can become a loved job too. We cannot know what will happen tomorrow, what changes will impact us negatively or positively. We cannot be sure what will drive the outcome.
However, there is one thing we can always rely on and which will always stay with us: ourselves. In this ever-changing world, our know-how, skills and mindset, along with our ability to learn, grow, adapt and flex our routines, are the constant factors that will carry us through.
So you can either choose a job you will love (and be never satisfied) or you can choose to love the job you do – whatever it is you do. Those who manage to leverage the opportunities of a VUCA job, those who focus on themselves, those who shape themselves and shape their jobs, will be tomorrow’s winners. They will learn how to adapt to the VUCA world in a constructive, flexible manner, while still respecting their own needs. They will be able to create a breathing space in anything they do and turn any job into a loved job.