what’s wrong with “do what you love,” how employers can get your salary history, and more

A few miscellaneous things —

1. Advice for employers who want job candidates’ salary history

I love this article from Suzanne Lucas (of evilhrlady.org). Her editor sent her my article on how job seekers can avoid giving out their salary history, and suggested that Suzanne write an article telling hiring managers how to get candidates to give up their salary histories. Suzanne’s response is awesome.

2. Another problem with “do what you love” as a career mantra

I’ve written before about why “follow your passion” is (often) bad career advice. Here’s a great article about why it’s also incredibly classist, privileged advice. The author, Miya Tokumitsu, writes: “‘Do what you love’ disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and cosign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can self-righteously bestow ‘do what you love’ as career advice to those covetous of her success.”

She also point out that “do what you love” advice causes work to be divided into two classes: “that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce. For those forced into unlovable work, it’s a different story. Under the ‘do what you love’ credo, labor that is done out of motives or needs other than love (which is, in fact, most labor) is not only demeaned but erased.”

3. Me, talking about snow days

I was a guest on WHYY radio in Philadelphia earlier this week, talking about how employers handle snow days — including taking questions from callers, which is always enormously fun. You can listen to it here (the segment with me starts at 15:00).

4. More on how much money people make

More about our huge crowdsourced list of what salaries people are earning in what jobs: Reader Khushnood Viccaji created this shared, editable spreadsheet of this data here, so that anyone who wants to help clean it up can access it and edit the shared version. Please edit only the entries which are clearly inaccurate (and if anyone has suggestions on how to better control the editing process, I’m all ears).

{ 192 comments… read them below }

      1. Paige Turner*

        Terri Gross does all her interviews for the show by phone, from what I understand (not just this one).

  1. vdubs*

    I can’t believe I missed you on WHYY! (Are you in Philly?) Do you know if this was an episode that is available as a podcast?

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I listened to some of it to discover whether you had the sort of voice I imagined you to have.

        For the record, yes you did!

            1. Jen in RO*

              Alison sounds nothing like I imagined – I was also expecting a lower voice. She also sounds younger to me… her voice and accent make me think of a 20ish year old skating (on old-school skates) on a promenade by the seaside in California or Florida.

              I’m sharing this because Alison was curious. And, for the record (again), I’ve never set foot in the US, so I’m probably thinking in stereotypes.

              1. badger_doc*

                I pictured you sounding the way you write–very well spoken, a little soft because you have compassion for others, but also a little bouncy becuase you have a sense of humor (at least it comes across in your writing that you do). Gene said it best with “smile in her inflection”. I do the same thing with novels–I get so into the character development and picturing what that person must look and sound like that I am often disappointed when a movie comes out and the actor is NOTHING how I pictured. Imagination is an amazing thing.

                1. Melissa*

                  I feel like you’re inside my head, or my clone or something, because this comment is pretty much exactly what I would’ve written had she asked me the same question. And also, I do the same thing with character development. I usually don’t see a movie that I know was a novel until I’ve read the novel first, but it’s because (ironically) I don’t want to read the book later and taint the characters in the novel with the actors from the movie. Inevitably, though, I am displeased with the actors and voices and settings in the movie. (One notable exception lately has been the Hunger Games movies; those are surprisingly pretty close to the way I imagined it, and even the parts that aren’t are still good-different.)

              1. Melissa*

                I burst out laughing at this. Good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee, as it would’ve been everywhere.

          1. Queen Victoria*

            I was surprised as well! For whatever reason, I always imagined Alison sounding like Ann from Parks and Rec.

        1. Ella*

          Listening to it on Podcast at this very moment.

          Alison’s voice is a surprise. I kind of expected it too be lower, husky, smoky and with less *smile* in her intonation (a smile that is actually very lovely).

  2. Yup*

    #2 – Great article. I wish the author had gone into even greater detail on the obvious disconnect between Steve Jobs DWYL and the reality of the people actually making the products.

    In addition to being classist and privileged, it’s also incredibly anti-social and self-referential. What if what I really love to do, in my secret heart of hearts, is bust unions? Con the life savings out of elderly people? Light fires in densely wooded residential areas? But who cares — it’s what I love! Off I go to follow my dreams!

    1. MaryMary*

      Ha! I will now always think of this when people talk about doing what they love. “Well, they told me to do what I love, so I became an arsonist.”

        1. Kay*

          ” Hi, I’m Crazy Eddie,
          I put babies on spikes.
          Want a rack of babies?
          We’ve got babies on racks”

          Or something to that effect. Now I need to watch that again.

  3. Ashley*

    #2 I will always follow my father’s advice in this regard: “Love your family, love your friends, love your dog, but don’t love your job because it will never love you back.” It may seem cynical, but it is actually good advice for anyone – if you become to invested in your job (not in doing a good job at work or being a good employee, but in the whole job “idea”) then you are more likely to stay stagnant and not take chances and you will be blinded to potential problems.

    I like my job just fine and it offers many advantages to work/life balance, but it is not the end all, be all.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      True this.

      The FBI has a saying: “You fall in love with the Bureau, but the Bureau doesn’t fall in love with you.” I think everyone should think this about every job.

    2. Jamie*

      I don’t know – sometimes I think my work loves me back.

      Not the people at work – the equipment. Someone had an issue and they rebooted several times, nothing. I went back, rebooted, no issue…program is running fine.

      I haven’t visited that computer in a while and I think it missed me. It likes my typing better than any other typing.

      Sorry – I’ve worked 69 hours since Saturday and in the calm after the storm I’m just punchy enough to start developing real relationships with my equipment.

      You know that movie out about the guy who falls in love with an operating system. My husband won’t let me see it, he’s not worried about other men but if it becomes possible to fall in love with an actual computer then he’s nervous.

      1. Judy*

        Well, computers seem to know who is boss. I also have the power to just WATCH someone do what they did a few minutes before when it didn’t work, and the computer does what they ask with me just watching.

          1. anon in the uk*

            I have been known to get our tax software to do things no one else can. I like to think it recognises who is in charge.

      2. Is This Legal*

        Question for you Jamie – Are you in auditing or IT? I recall you mentioning Big 4. I am trying to switch careers from accountant to Information Systems Audit and Control Association? Is it worth the change? I’m not a CPA either

        1. Jamie*

          I never mentioned the Big4 – yikes – I don’t even own proper black pumps anymore!

          I am IT – that’s what it says on my business card, license plate, and carved into my very heart.

          But because I’m in manufacturing we run lean and wear a lot of hats I’m also head of cost accounting (inventory control) and ISO management rep/Lead internal auditor. My audits are QC and not financial. During a financial audit I’m the auditee – not the auditor.

          The post I said I wasn’t a CPA – because I’m never a CPA but I don’t often specifically note that…(I am also not an astronaut :)) was I believe when I recommended Institute of Internal Auditors and someone else was talking about Big 4.

          My knowledge is specific to manufacturing, but a background in accounting is a HUGE plus when you’re IT if you’re in charge of systems running programs or developing reports and ways of looking at the data. It’s one thing to be able to code a report, easy enough, it’s another to really understand what is they are looking for and be able to give them what they need, which is not always what they asked for.

          I love my weird hybrid combo job – although it boxes me in in that I’m only really valuable to a company small enough to consolidate those three functions, but big enough to need all of them in house.

          I do love accounting, although I don’t tell that part of my brain that the IT part is my favorite. But the two fields have more of a shared skill set than some would think and to me that field change makes a lot of sense.

          If you have specific questions or want details you can either email me through the linkedin group, if you’re a member, or post in the next open thread and I can ramble about this all day.

          1. Is This Legal*

            Thanks for the insight, I will compile my questions and post for you. Sorry for the confusion, must have misread and mistaken you for a former Big 4. Again thanks.

      3. danr*

        It’s simple… computers have ESP and know whether you like them or not. I always think of two computers, Heinlein’s MIKE, and Ryan’s P-1.

      4. Hooptie*

        HA! I always say that my computer loves the IR staff but hates me. It never fails – I can’t get something to work but as soon as I get one of them on screen share to look at it everything magically starts working.

    3. PEBCAK*

      From my father: “Of course I don’t love my job all of the time. Nobody does. That’s why there is such a thing as wages.”

    4. Jen in RO*

      I learned this by proxy, from a friend who went through a round of layoffs from a big company that inspires a lot of loyalty. And I don’t have a problem saying the name, it’s Blizzard. My friend loved the job and the company and its culture… and then they announced that 300 people would get laid off. She was genuinely hurt… her experience taught me to never get too attached. I can love my coworkers or my work, but I’ll never imagine that the company itself gives a damn about my existence.

  4. Not So NewReader*

    Do what you love.

    The problem I see here is that familiarity breeds contempt. Given enough time at anything, we can learn to UNlove it. Then hate is just around the corner.
    What do we do with all the people who don’t love their jobs? Is there something wrong with them? uggggh. Maybe they are happy with a low key job because they can have a life, too.

    I think a more realistic goal is to master your job. Learn as much as you can about it. Sending people out into the world to look for a job they love seems like a recipe for failure.

    1. Kelly L.*

      That’s me exactly. I don’t want to “do what I love” for money; I want to “do something I’m good at that doesn’t suck my soul out through a straw, and then go home and do what I love on my own time.”

      1. Sara B.*


        Also, in reality there is conflict between our status as citizens and workers.

        For example, I know it might be in an employers best interest to only want the very best. They are either a business or an agency with a budget. I totally get that. And I WANT to help keep my employer profitable (until I feel exploited). An employer shouldn’t be concerned with meeting your needs. Passion may be a requisite after all.

        We don’t obligate employers to hire, for good reason, but we are obligated to be hired. It’s pretty tricky. So try to love what you do. Try to do what you’re love. Don’t waste an employer’s or your own time with a job in which you have no vested interest in doing. But it’s okay if you just want a job to eat and have money to explore your talents elsewhere.

      2. Jessa*


        The worst part of what comes from the “do what you love” bias is that you take a hit for working because … bills. You’re looked down on even if you do have metric tonnes of privilege. It colours how salary is discussed even. How dare you want to know what you’re getting paid you … (I can’t think of a word here…but you get my meaning.)

    2. Felicia*

      I think the quickest way to ruin what I love is to do it as a job. I’d rather much do something I’m good at and don’t hate than somethign i love

    3. Piper*

      Oh yes! Totally! I started out in a career “doing what I loved” and pretty soon, I hated it. It took me years and years to love that thing again. Now I’m in a job that’s related to what I used to do but instead of the creative/artsy side, I’m now on the strategy/innovation side and that’s just fine with me. I do what I love in my own time.

      1. Anonymous*

        Team Piper! I did what I love and realized the paid work was burning me out on doing my own work. Now I work in a business-related position dealing with spreadsheets and budgets, and while its not as “sexy”, I’m able to leave work at work and come home to do what makes me happy, for myself. :)

    4. Aimee*

      Yes, this! I’ve done what I love. Then it became work, and I stopped loving it.

      Now, I do something I mostly enjoy that offers me the work/life balance I want. The things I love to do are hobbies now. (Even the one I used to do for work. It took me a while, but I eventually learned to love it again).

    5. Ruffingit*

      Anyone else think we should change it from “Do what you love” to “Do what you can reasonably stand for a long period of time without becoming homicidal?”

  5. JMegan*

    Ugh, DWYL makes me crazy. For most people, it’s just not an option – either “what you love” doesn’t exist as a job, or it exists but it doesn’t pay well enough to make a living at it, or it exists but you have to be an absolute superstar at it in order to make a living.

    This is similar to the other career advice that makes me stabby – that if someone “likes you enough,” they’ll create a job for you. So all you have to do is network your way to a person or an organization you want to work with, show them how absolutely amazing you are, and voila! Your dream job appears!

    Most people – even most hiring managers – are just not in a position to create a job out of thin air. There may or may not be money available, or senior-level support. Or they may already be overstaffed, or in an industry like government where they have to go through a transparent recruiting and hiring process for every job.

    And again, you have to be *outstanding* for this to work – no hiring manager is going to create a job every single person they come across, no matter how much they like them. And by definition, most of us are not outstanding. In face, we need the 99% of us who are *not* outstanding, to provide a baseline for the 1% who are! What about those of us who don’t want to be outstanding, who just want to do their jobs and get a paycheque and go home?

    I don’t hear this so much since the recession started, thank goodness. But it used to be a really common piece of advice, that unfortunately ignores the job-hunting reality for the vast majority of the population.

      1. Stephanie*

        No, totally fair! I hate this advice myself. Plus, I’d wonder about the long-term ramifications of working somewhere that nepotistic. Like, if all it took to get a position created was enough self-selling, how does the rest of the business operate?

      2. Anonymous*

        When we were laid off, the “career coach” they provided was an absolute joke. He seriously told me not to limit my job search to my current geographic region…which I’m NOT going to leave…bc “once they’ve decided to offer you a job, they’ll be willing to make accommodations for you!” His example? A VP of field sales who worked out of the office 80% of the time to begin with. As far as I can see, low level project managers are a dime a dozen and are expected to be on staff. I think I would be laughed out the door if I surprised them with a request to work remotely.

  6. Canadamber*

    “Do what you love” may also lead people into career paths that they’re not good at. For instance, what if you want to become a journalist, but can barely grasp the concept of basic grammar? An engineer, but you suck at math? And the list goes on and on. While it probably also sounds quite “privileged” of me to say play to your strengths, in whatever you do, well… it’s true, and that may help a lot of people.

    I get that this advice is more for aspiring artists and writers and those in fields where there are far, far more many candidates than there will ever be job openings or opportunities – but that applies to other careers, too. For instance, for the longest time, I wanted to be an engineer. Then Grade 12 Advanced Functions happened, and I just so happened to be taking Grade 12 Accounting at the same time. I rapidly realized that some of the math required for engineering might never be my strength, and I simply don’t have the drive that would be required for me to succeed in that at university. Now, am I bad at math? No, I am very much not bad at math! But I simply didn’t enjoy a lot of the more “engineering” math, so I decided to go down the route of business instead. Would I enjoy engineering in my dream job (designing cars/non-destructive testing)? Probably. But would I be willing to put in the work to get there, is the bigger question…

    And with ANYTHING, if the answer to that question is no, then it’s probably a bad idea. I feel like I would be a better accountant than I would be an engineer. In fact, I think that being an auditor would be quite fun. :P But, yeah, also playing to your strengths is important… I kind of forgot my point, haha. But, yeah, I think that that’s good advice, because if you suck at doing “what you love”, you might not love it so much once you realize that.

    (This probably sounds dumb haha I’m tired…)

    1. The IT Manager*

      So true. I was an engineering major briefly, and I quickly realized design is mostly math and I just didn’t like math enough to do it on a daily basis.

    2. MaryMary*

      My mother is a recently retired elementary school teacher, and “you can be ANYTHING you want when you grow up!” is one of her pet peeves. You have many career options. The harder you work, the more options you have. But you cannot be ANYTHING you want to be. If both your parents are under 5’5, you are not going to be a professional basketball player. If both of your parents more than six feet tall, you are unlikely to be an astronaut. If you don’t have 20/20 vision, you will never be a fighter pilot. If you’re tone deaf, being a musician is a poor career choice. It’s so much better to set realistic expectations early, and link hard work and determination to success.

      1. Lindsay J*

        I struggled against the musician thing for so long.

        I have no sense of rhythm. None. I understand theoretically how to play “in time” but I just can’t do it. The disconnect between what my brain does and what my hands do baffled most of my teachers.

        I loved music though. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, and so I tried my best. I practiced my rear-end off. I got into college for music education – not at a great music school, but I did pass auditions at one.

        By two and a half years into it I knew I had made a mistake. I was failing classes. I didn’t have the musical chops to know what students in my placement were doing wrong, or how to fix it.

        Ultimately the frustration made me switch majors and I do something else, now.

        I think the cultural narrative of “Do what you love,” or “If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life,” or “You can do anything as long as you put your mind to it,” or whatever played a large part in my choice to stick it out as long as I did. I knew I wasn’t good at music. I had parents and friends tell me, “Hey you’re so good at a lot of things, but music isn’t really one of them and it’s a difficult way to make a living, anyway,” but I persevered because I loved it and I was going to work my butt off and make it and prove them all wrong.

        Wasted 3 years of college and a lot of student loan money instead. I would much rather have had the message be, “Do what you’re good at and make a living that way.”

        Honestly, I’m still in one of those “Do what you love,” kind of jobs and industries. And the truth is – generally – what you love is also what a lot of other people love. Companies know this, and can and will pay you less because they know there are others willing to jump in and take your place that are willing to work for lesser pay, even if you aren’t.

        1. Rana*

          Do what you’re good at and make a living that way.

          Although, even this is problematic. What if the things you’re good at don’t pay very well, or are an aspect of a career choice you’re not interested in at all, or are usually combined with things that you suck at?

          And then there’s the problem of having certain skills or abilities, but not knowing which jobs go with them.

          Honestly, I think that in a lot of cases, the job you end up with is… well, not a crap shoot… but not as much in one’s control as the rhetoric would have us think.

          I think “do something that enables you to do the things you’re interested in without killing your body or soul” would be my mantra these days.

      2. Adam*

        We are not all created equal. If I ever have kids I will encourage them to explore and develop curiosity and then go out and use it in any matter that best fits them. It’s why I like the following quote.

        “Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

      3. Ruffingit*

        Totally agreed, I tell this to people all the time. Know your limitations. This is not a bad thing, it’s actually very freeing. Stop pushing against a door that will never open and find something that will work for you.

      4. Nichole*

        I agree with your mother so much! I was in middle/elementary school in the late 80s and 90s, and “you can be anything” was constant, especially for girls who demonstrated academic ability. In the well intentioned effort to be supportive and impart girl power, I was barraged with the idea that if I didn’t become president, it was because I hadn’t worked hard enough (spoiler-I am not the POTUS, but I’ve got a few years until 35, so they could still be right…). No consideration was made for institutionalized inequality, innate ability, career tracking, or economic and educational competition. The idea that some people will never achieve what they want for reasons outside of their control was never introduced to me as a legitimate concept until I was in college. I think “you have many career options, and the harder you work, the more options you have” is fantastic advice.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Sure Barack, we know it’s you :)

          Seriously though, I totally love this The idea that some people will never achieve what they want for reasons outside of their control was never introduced to me as a legitimate concept.

          This. So much this. So much of what we can achieve is dependent on others, the organic skills we have in terms of picking up certain things faster or at all, etc. We cannot all be superstars at everything if we just work hard enough.

      5. Chrissi*

        Minor correction – nowadays you can be a fighter pilot if you don’t have 20/20 vision because they have (finally) authorized the use of vision correction surgery for fighter pilots (which results in 20/20 vision, so you’re still right). My brother-in-law is a fighter pilot and had the surgery (PRK at the time, but now they’ve authorized LASIK as well), otherwise I would not know this random, random bit of trivia.

        But I agree with your mother whole-heartedly :)

        1. EM*

          Ha, not for all of us! If your vision is very poor, even LASIK won’t make it 20/20. I’m in this boat, so that’s how I know. My optometrist said I would probably still have to wear (lower power) glasses/contacts even if I had the surgery done.

          I think my chances of fighter pilot are shot. ;)

    3. CC*

      I think “play to your strengths” isn’t dripping with unrecognized privilege the way “do what you love” is. It does still assume that you have at least some freedom of choice in what sort of job you look for.

      In terms of advice where it’s given as a way to choose when a choice is available, “play to your strengths” is a good one. If there’s no choice available, you do what you can.

      So, maybe not “play to your strengths, in whatever you do” but “play to your strengths wherever you can” or something similar.

  7. A Bug!*

    #1 – *snrk*

    That’s a great response. I see that editor’s mindset with depressing regularity at work. “The court order says I have to do X, but can I do Y instead?”

    “You’re required by law to comply with court orders. You can be held in contempt and even jailed for failing to do so. At minimum you’ll be putting yourself at a legal disadvantage. The lawyer’s advice is to comply with the order. If you want to do Y without violating the order, we can make an application to change it, but in the meantime you’re still bound by the current order. That said, you ultimately get to decide what action you take, knowing the content of the order and your lawyer’s advice. ”

    “…I’ll do Y.”

    head, meet desk

  8. Poohbear McGriddles*

    If everyone only did work they loved, no one’s garbage would get picked up or patients’ bed pans cleaned. Or if they did we’d identify some really weird individuals!

    1. some1*

      I was totally thinking of the scene in Office Space about, “Our high school guidance counselor used to ask us what we’d do if we had a million dollars. If you wanted to fix old cars, you should be an auto mechanic” and Michael points out what you did.

    2. Tinker*

      Though I kind of think, if we didn’t encourage folks to think of an enjoyable job as being one where the exact activities involved had to be something that we’d consider to be play, we probably would find people who in effect love doing those things.

      1. TL*

        I know people who would love having a simple, straightforward job they can leave at the end of each day, or people who really like the satisfaction of seeing a job well done, or people who enjoy repetitive tasks.

        There are lots of aspects of a job you can enjoy without loving the job itself. It’s less about finding the job you love and more about finding one that fits your strengths and is worth the money you get paid, for whatever reasons.

        1. Elysian*

          Indeed. I worked one summer on an assembly line and hated it. The coworker training me really liked the job – he said “It’s easy and they pay me. And then I go home.” That is what he wanted in a job, and there ya go.

      2. fposte*

        Yes, I think there’s a big difference between “I’d do this for fun if they stopped paying me!” and “I enjoy this enough to do it for my living!” It’s okay to need to be paid to justify what you do.

      3. Elsajeni*

        Yes — I wouldn’t describe my old retail job as “a job I loved,” and I would be surprised if anyone’s ever thought “‘Do what you love,’ they say… I know! I’ll be a cashier!”, but you know what, most of the time I enjoyed going to work there.

        (I also know someone who used to work as a tech at an eye bank — which is to say, his job was to go to morgues and funeral homes and remove the corneas from cadavers so that they could be used for transplant or research. That is not a response you want to hear when you’re advising someone to “do what you love.”)

        1. TL*

          The job I most loved was working in an independent book store – but it’s completely not what I want to do with my career. For many reasons, with money being one of the big ones.

          1. Andrea*

            Oh, man, me too! My first job was in a small independent book store. I loved it and worked there for three years while I was in college. (I think it may have ruined me for other jobs because it was such a great place to work, and I worked hard but loved it.) I would have happily worked there forever if possible.

          2. JMegan*

            Me three! I could happily have made a career of it if there had been enough money involved.

            And of course, if “small independent bookstores” were still a thing in the world. :S

          3. Jessica*

            Former record store clerk here. Best job ever. Would have done it forever if it a)paid a living wage and b) still existed.

    3. Andrea*

      Exactly. I always think of “The Cider House Rules” and how it was a rule at the orphanage to “be of use.” I like that more, really, because being of use and doing what needs to be done is indeed incredibly important. And I think about that a lot, actually, because many of the jobs that hold our society together and make our communities nice are the jobs many people wouldn’t want. But they need to be done, regardless, and it’s good work (honest work, and work that will always need doing), and I’m grateful to those who clean the streets, collect trash, deliver mail, scrub public bathrooms, etc. That work matters.

  9. Katie*

    I will add that when you start doing what you love for a paycheck, sometimes it’s no longer a fun hobby, it becomes just as much of a chore as a regular job.

    I do what I love (web/graphic design/brand management). I truly love the type of work I do. I truly love the industry that I get to do the work for. BUT, I’m executing someone else’s vision, in someone else’s timeline.

    It’s still a job and I still have days when I feel brain-numb, bored, frustrated whatever.

    Turning something you want to do, into something you have to do can take the fun out of it.

    1. Anon*

      I don’t remember who it was, but someone once said in response to the question, “Why aren’t you a professional artist if you love making art?”, “Well, I also love having sex, but I wouldn’t want to do that for a living either.” Sometimes the process of doing something professionally takes out all the things that you love about it in the first place.

  10. James M*

    #2: DWYL and “I deserve money for doing what I want” are clearly different, but I wonder if some people haven’t made that leap.

    Sometimes I wonder about people who major in Philosophy…

    1. Mike C.*

      There’s nothing wrong with the study of general and fundamental problems. And the implication that folks who are required to understand, discuss and communicate highly complicated topics to a wide variety of audiences is silly in my mind. You might as well call theoretical mathematicians and scientists equally useless. They’re doing the same thing, only with a slightly more focused scope.

      1. Jamie*

        I’m not going to weigh in on the philosophy argument, but I don’t think it’s fair to put mathematicians and scientists in the same category.

        In STEM you’re working from a base of logic and even theoretical work builds on logical and proven foundations. And there are incredibly important real world applications like medical treatments and advancing technology that are literally making the world a better place every day.

        Your math degree is inherently valuable because it’s based on your mastery of logic and accepted principles. You didn’t get that degree because anyone subjectively thought you might have a point about something or other – you got it because you proved over years that you knew – to parse a phrase – make the math come out correctly.

        1. Mike C.*

          First off, a correction – the second sentence should read, “And the implication that folks who are required to understand, discuss and communicate highly complicated topics to a wide variety of audiences isn’t valuable is silly in my mind. ”

          I was being very specific when I said “theoretical”, as opposed to applied or experimental math and science. Analysis and abstract algebra versus statistics and numerical modeling, that sort of thing. Many of the former aren’t studied with an eye towards practical applications, but are valued much the same.

          It’s perfectly fair to compare theoretical fields, and in doing so I’m not calling the STEM fields useless, but rather acknowledging that the philosophical fields I’m comparing them to have similar utility despite their negative reputation. In addition to my examples previously, philosophy has huge applications in ethics, the political sciences and to a certain extent economics. The whole concept of logic comes from philosophy, as does the scientific method that we base all of our STEM fields on.

          1. Jamie*

            I guess my take on it is that even theoretical STEM disciplines like math and physics are still an outgrowth of the proven and tested theories accepted as fact.

            There are differing povs when it comes to Philosophy. And yes, there is a great deal of value in some of it…much of it will resonate differently to different people depending on their own personal moral and ethical constructs. And what we would each find to be true and logical philosophically will vary depending on our upbringing, environment, and social structure in which we live and that in which we were raised.

            So I’m not saying there isn’t value, there is…but imo it’s not absolute value because some of it has no utility at all and the truth isn’t universal.

            People will differ on this, of course.

            But from a completely utilitarian standpoint a mathematics degree will translate to cash via a job more easily than a philosophy degree in the public sector.

        2. A Cita*

          And as someone who works on the socio-cultural aspects of health outcomes, I can tell you that all that medicine and real world improvements will reach a very limited audience without the people who study and understand large social (and yes, philosophical in the sense of social theory) issues surrounding dissemination, uptake, personal and cultural beliefs around health, healthcare, and bodies, health practices, power relationships, outreach, etc.

      2. James M*

        You seem to be putting an awful lot of words in my mouth, Mike.

        I’m not calling any field of study useless. All I’m saying is that some big choices pique my curiosity to the point where I /really/ want to ask “What were you thinking!?”.

        The economic viability of a degree in philosophy is a separate matter that I’m not addressing either.

        1. Mike C.*

          And the reason you’re questioning the choice of someone to major is philosophy is what then? What about a philosophy major piques your curiosity that other degrees do not? And you can’t claim that you aren’t addressing economics when you preface your question with a statement about others undeservedly wanting money for arbitrary work.

          You start off with a generic statement about how you think people are just expecting money for any type of work and then make an offhanded comment about a theoretical humanities degree, how is it unreasonable for me to link the two in my mind and find it similar to the mountains and mountains of “heh, humanities majors, they’re worthless/don’t make much money/picked a dumb major” stereotypes?

          Where did I go wrong here? What were you actually trying to say?

          1. James M*

            You went wrong in your reading comprehension. You continually accuse me of making statements that I HAVE NOT MADE and of espousing opinions that I HAVE NOT EXPRESSED. Please stop.

            What I actually write is what I actually intend, no more, no less. When I speculate, it is ONLY speculation. When I ask questions, I hope to expand my understanding, NOT to belittle or disparage anyone. When I write in first person, I am talking about ONLY myself.

              1. James M*

                I have never questioned philosophy. I only said that I sometimes wonder about people who major in philosophy (e.g. their reasons for that choice). Mike mentioned ethics as a career closely related to philosophy, which is a good point that I had not considered.

                1. CC*

                  Generally when I hear somebody say they “sometimes wonder about people who [do some thing]” the implication is that nobody in their right mind would do that thing. *Especially* when it’s a trailing summary of a critical comment. As such, I’m not at all surprised you got the reaction you did.

                  If I’m wondering without prejudice about a person’s reasons for doing something, I usually say I’m curious about why they made a choice, not that I wonder about the person. I also try to not combine it with a direct criticism even if in my mind they aren’t connected.

            1. Mike C.*

              Saying I have bad reading comprehension while neglecting to answer the questions I directly asked you about what you actually mean isn’t helping anyone.

              1. James M*

                I said nothing about you having “bad reading comprehension”, only that you are wrong in this instance. Case in point.

                “What I actually write is what I actually intend, no more, no less.” is the most direct answer I can give to your last question.

                1. Anonymous*

                  At this point you seem to be going out of your way to make pedantic statements and if a lot of people are having a hard time understanding what you are saying it might be worth stepping back to evaluate if you are clearly expressing yourself since you aren’t clearly being understood.

            2. aebhel*

              “Some people seem to expect to get paid just because they’re doing what they love…I wonder about philosophy majors.”

              This is a thing called implication. By placing those two statements in close narrative proximity, you are IMPLYING a link. The phrasing of your second statement implies negative judgement–it’s used almost exclusively as an oblique criticism of the subject’s judgement. Maybe you didn’t mean it that way. Maybe you genuinely meant for those two statements to be read independently of one another, but that is not how they come across.

              Frankly, either you’re pretending to be ignorant of how English communication works, or you actually are. Either way, I wouldn’t go too far down the road of criticizing someone else’s reading comprehension.

        2. aebhel*

          Well, the idea of a college degree as a career path is a relatively new one, tbh, so there’s that to consider.

          1. A Cita*

            Yes, very true! Traditional university learning has typically (and not in all cases, of course) been about exposure to history, great thinkers, literature, the arts, mathematics, critical thinking and reasoning, and becoming civic minded. Degrees were predominantly “arts and humanities” or “liberal arts” degrees. Even as programs changed, it’s still very recent that college degree was considered primarily a career path.

    2. Stephanie*

      I had what’d you consider a “practical” major in college (mechanical engineering), but took a few philosophy classes to satisfy humanities requirements.

      I’ll concede knowing the specifics of a Kierkegaard theorem might not be very applicable outside academia. But my philosophy classes exposed me to different ideas of thought and taught me to really analyze complex arguments. The courses also taught me to present arguments succinctly (and soundly) and write with brevity.

      I think you can extract skills from any major–it’s just figuring out how to translate the core skillset to the business world.

      1. Heather*

        Yup. Even though at the time, my philosophy classes seemed weird and abstract to me (and I was an English major, so weird and abstract were not unfamilar concepts!), they taught me how to think and analyze both the content & quality of ideas. I wish everyone had to learn those things – imagine how much better off we’d be as a country if most people actually evaluated the quality of the ideas they heard, instead of just parroting whatever X authority figure told them to believe.

    3. Simonthegrey*

      In college, we used to refer to Philosophy as “Majoring in Douchebaggery,” and the “WHY would you like fries with that” major. I’m English/Theology, so it isn’t like my prospects were aeons better, but the people who majored in phil….they’re a different breed.

      1. MentalEngineer*

        To be fair, IME most undergrad philosophy majors are going through a Rand phase, a Nietzsche phase, or both (sometimes simultaneously, even though they would have hated each other). Both of those phases are more severe if the student is 18 or 19 and is misunderstanding their new world-shattering revelations. Once they have more actual work under their belts, the good ones ease up. The bad ones…let’s just say that the grad students and faculty hate them just as much as the other departments do. Some people are only solved by the throwing of chalk.

          1. EE*

            I often wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Paul Ryan’s staffers got to the bit in Atlas Shrugged where some heroes declare that adultery is the highest and greatest expression of their beings

    4. MentalEngineer*

      Most people who major in philosophy are trying to get into law school. In my case, I was thinking “Gee, I’m turning out to be a really bad engineer.” Then it turned out both that I loved philosophy to pieces and was actually pretty darn good at it – good enough to get grad funding and try to make it a career. I am not going to defend the use of studying philosophy, because I already do that in four discussion sections every week. I’m just going to explain a couple things.

      First, I’m pragmatic enough to recognize that I’ll need to eat whether I actually manage to get a doctorate and an academic job or not. I’ve worked other jobs – in fact, right now as I’m in grad school, I have another job.

      People who actually want careers in philosophy think very, very, very hard about whether to pursue them. People who aren’t smart enough to do this lack the basic intelligence to actually do high-level work. The first thing any professor tells an undergrad considering grad school is “Don’t.” The second is “If I can’t dissuade you from trying, don’t go into debt.” The third is usually, “No, seriously, don’t.”

      Here are the risks. Failing to finish graduate school results in years of sunk costs and no PhD, plus all your other skills have atrophied because you spent the last three years putting every sane moment into trying to write a decent dissertation. If you do finish, you have roughly a one in eight chance at getting tenure-track employment if you went to one of the top 25 programs (otherwise, forget it); if you don’t get a TT job within your first few years on the market, you’re vanishingly unlikely to get one at all. That means making around $8-20K per year as an adjunct with no job security or benefits until you’re 65+, commuting between two or three different schools to teach enough classes to make ends meet, without the institutional credibility to get published, and without funding to go to conferences or get journal subscriptions. The recession absolutely cratered the job market. None of us have the luxury of self-deception about the statistics, and we’re all working our tails off to be the person who beats the odds.

      I apologize if this seems stark and/or combative; it’s late and I might be seeing disparagement that’s not there. But I look very dimly at the implication that prospective philosophers don’t know what they’re getting into.

      1. Rana*

        Agreed. Anyone who majors in the humanities – let alone goes on to grad school in it – hears a litany of “whatcha gonna do with that?” and jokes about “English majors” and so on.

        So people either think long and hard about the career prospects of their major if they’re in these areas, or – brace yourselves – they don’t care about that. Now, granted, it may be indulgent to major in something that doesn’t have an obvious career attached to it, but, you know what? People have the right to do things for the simple enjoyment of them; it gets tiring hearing that the only value something has is economic. There’s nothing wrong with being a burger flipper by day and an amateur art historian by night.

  11. Adam*

    I took DWYL and turned it my mind into “Have a passion” or “Work hard; play hard”. Work out there needs to be done, and most of the time it isn’t fun or interesting. Surely there are aspects to any job (hopefully) that are enjoyable, but even people who truly love what they do have days where they’d much rather be on a beach somewhere.

    But even if your job sucks you can take pride in knowing that you do it well, and that you take full advantage of your non-work time by filling it with all the things you DO care about.

    Which is not to say that you shouldn’t strive for better fulfilling work, particularly if you’re currently stuck in a soul crushing job. But putting all your hopes in work is not the answer either.

    1. Liz*

      Yes! I didn’t love working in retail, but I chose to concentrate on the things I found satisfying, and the cameraderie I had with my coworkers, and that made it pleasant. And then I’d go home and work at something I was passionate about.

      1. Travelwriter*

        I’m a travel writer and I really love what I do. However it’s taken me a full decade to get where I am and I’m comfortable but hardly rich. I also work insane hours and if I’m at a beach it’s a working holiday for me. The whole follow your passion thing doesn’t often take into account that even things you love have their dog days. Forget passion – to be successful at anything takes persistence and the willingness to accept that a “dream job” comes with plenty of tedium and difficulties. I’d recommend to anybody who was intent on following the passion path to combine their first love with other things they like, maybe not love, to lesson the income angst. For me, it’s editing, consulting and digital publishing.

  12. Elizabeth West*

    I saw the DWYL article a while ago. I was nodding my head off through the entire thing. Yes, I would love to write books full-time, but that’s just not practical because I don’t have an idea as enormous as J.K. Rowling’s, nor do I have a trust fund like Paris Hilton’s. The odds of me writing something as big as Harry Potter are infinitesimal at best.

    Would I like to? Yes, but not because I want to be rich and famous. I would like to write something people love as much as I love HP. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’d like to return the favor somehow. But I think it’s more likely that I’ll write something a small contingent of people love, and that will be that. Which is fine. That’s why I’m in school, so I can eat and yet still do what I love, because I’m doing it even though no one is paying me for it (yet).

    1. Adam*

      Right. Fiction is such a competitive space to get in to and there’s little indication of what will become the next mega-success. But if you’re meant to be a writer then odds are you’ve got at least one idea that’s just screaming to jump out of you at any point, and though it may never be on the NYT bestseller’s list it still may be some unsuspecting fan to be’s favorite thing ever.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I hope so. :D

        Newbook may tick some people off, but Steven Spielberg once said he thinks about what he wants to say when he makes a film, and if it doesn’t take a risk, he won’t make the movie. I thought that was really, really good and I remembered it.

    2. Judy*

      There’s a really cool commencement address by Neil Gaiman I saw maybe last summer on the internet. Elizabeth, you ought to watch it.

      It’s summed up with one short sentence “Make good art” as his advice to the graduates. A very humorous take on that… “Your boyfriend left you? Make good art. Sun is shining? Make good art.”

    3. Jamie*

      I know I’m not the whole HP audience, but Elizabeth I can’t wait to read your book once it’s published.

      And if it becomes a series I hope you’ll be forthcoming with spoilers …I promise I won’t tell.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yeah, as long as it isn’t a romance, I’ll buy and read a copy too. But I want it autographed.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Thanks, you guys–I hope you can read my stuff one of these days.

          LOL Jamie!

          ThursdaysGeek–don’t worry; I could never write a romance novel without putting explosions in it. :)

            1. Jessica (tc)*

              You totally need to check out Joshilyn Jackson: love and guns (or murder), baby. (Not people killing loved ones, luckily, so it’s not that kind of romance. And I don’t even like romance, so hers aren’t even super romance-y.) Also, Deanna Raybourn’s Julia Grey series, if you’re a Anglophile and enjoy love with a side of murder and suspense.)

    4. anon*

      No offense, but your blog does not showcase your writing ability. It basically reads like a stream of consciousness, and jumps around from topic to topic. You might try editing your random thoughts into something more… cohesive. As if you were telling a story with each post. Just IMO.

      1. anon*

        I forgot to mention that hyperbole and a half is a great, great example of a storytelling blog. The same could be done sans cartoons.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Thanks for the feedback! I do appreciate it.

          Not really interested in doing a blog like Allie’s; her blog IS her writing. I could never do that as well as she does and the pictures really make it, don’t they? :) Besides, in Simple Dog alone, she has more material than I’ll ever have!

          It is hard to stay on topic when you aren’t actively publishing yet. I may post some stories that haven’t found a home yet and I do need to finish my Vocabulary series. I recently got a new follower thanks to some flash fiction I posted ages ago. :)

          1. Heather*

            I don’t think your blog has to be a showcase for your stories. Plenty of writers save the stories for their books and blog on whatever else interests them.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I agree. I’ve got the A-Z Blog Challenge thing coming up in April and I don’t usually write any fiction for that. I need to think of a theme. Maybe I’ll start on the sequel to Bank Robber Book and NaNo it. Yeah, that could be *alotofwork* fun.

              1. Jessica (tc)*

                I mentioned Joshilyn Jackson above, but she’s a great example of an author who blogs. She’s super receptive to her blog readers (and, by extension, book readers) and keeps us up to date on how writing is going, but doesn’t really do “real” writing on there (more “here’s what’s going on in my mind” stuff like yours). I love seeing the “real” side of one of my favorite authors, and as a result she’s now also one of my favorite people. I recommend her blog to just as many people as I recommend her books — and her latest is my all-time favorite. (I can’t wait to read her next one, as it’s about one of the most intriguing characters from this particular book.)

            2. anon*

              It’s ok to write just for family and friends or yourself, and to write about whatever you want, but I think, if you are trying to establish a presence in your profession, it is a good idea to create a blog that markets you to people in your profession. If you are a a writer, such a blog should be created solely for the purpose of showcasing your writing abilities, however you choose to do that, and your primary goal should be to increase readership. That’s the only point I was trying to make. Thanks for not being upset Elizabeth, I meant it in a nice way. These are just my observations as a layperson.

              1. Rana*

                Eh, it depends. Yes, one’s online presence should be appealing to one’s audience/fans, but a lot of writers I know blog as much about themselves and their personal interests as their writing per se. All drafts and press releases makes for a boring blog.

                But I do agree that individual posts should be well done, regardless of topic.

              2. Jessica (tc)*

                The blog for the author I mention above just reads like any other regular blog, except she sometimes mentions that she’s in the midst of a writing frenzy. I think a lot of it is knowing your audience, and her audience enjoys knowing that a regular person with a regular life writes those books that we love and identify with. I identify with the author quite a bit when she’s talking about personal things that are going on and that just makes me enjoy her blog and her books even more.

  13. Sharm*

    Ugh, DWYL. I hate this so much. It seems to be an unending chorus from my social circle and peers. Listen, any slogan that is emblazoned on a lululemon shopping bag is not something I’m going to take seriously.

    I have had a real struggle with this, because I’m not as ambitious or career-minded as a lot of people I know (being in the Bay Area probably didn’t help). My goal has ALWAYS been to work just enough to pay the bills, and then spend as much time away from work as possible. Do employers like to hear this? Probably not. I’ve always been a high achiever and have done well in school and in work (I have work awards to prove it!). But the older I get, the less I care. It’s not like I have kids or anything like that. But I have hobbies outside of work, and I want them to stay that way. I’m too old and fat to be a professional dancer, but dancing for fun is the best! But I could never make it my full-time work. For now, this is okay, but I have such a hard time trying to explain this to people. Especially so many women, who seem to react as if I’m letting down the entire Lean In/feminist movement by not wanting to be a CEO. That’s a separate rant, I suppose, but there are a lot of pressures to act as if your career is the only thing worth pursuing in life. It isn’t.

  14. Jamie*

    I don’t know – I think the DWYL in the sense that you should get paid for your grand passion isn’t realistic much of the time, for the reasons stated.

    That said, I’d have to think that taking stock of your talents and evaluating your skills and yes, what interests you or what you love – if it can be a viable career – is something people should do.

    My mom was a nurse. It was her calling, when she said if they didn’t pay she’d do it for free she meant it (although she needed to be paid – the sentiment was true.) She did what she loved – and what she didn’t make in income she made up for in career satisfaction. She actually turned down offers to interview for promotions a couple of times because she wanted nothing to do with administrative anything if it took her away from patient care.

    I love my job – although sometimes it feels like it’s trying to kill me – but I feel very lucky that I landed ass backwards into a field which basically lets me solve puzzles for a living.

    I encourage my kids to think about the kind of things they do where they feel their brain is most alive – where they really feel like they’re firing on all cylinders and factor that, along with their strengths and weaknesses, when trying to decide which path to take. I think people can love what they do if what they are doing plays to their strengths and people tend to be more successful when they find their own niche. But you always need a plan B.

    1. KJR*

      I am going to steal this last paragraph for my two kids…very well put. I’ve never liked the DWYL sentiment, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. This does a nice job of summarizing what you SHOULD aim for.

  15. Tinker*

    I’d certainly like to be a martial arts instructor for a living. It’s not impossible — my background, for instance, is not so terribly different from where Cornered Cat started and she got there — but the bind of “teach martial arts for a living, eat, don’t be a self-promoting empty shell who flagrantly fleeces one’s students: pick two” is well-established as being hard to escape. And even if one does, one doesn’t end up living terribly well, at least by my lights.

    Meanwhile, what I actually do for a living is probably close to the top of “things that I enjoy doing in the context of paid employment”, at least that I know of so far, and I don’t have to sell off my hobbies (in fact can actually fund my hobbies) and still get to live in nice places and not have to worry about money all that much. Which I’ll be so mercenary to say — I really enjoy that bit.

  16. Tasha*

    Re #1: the companies and HR people who need to take Evil HR lady’s (and your) advice are precisely the ones who will miss the entire tone underlying her article and the wisdom in the last paragraph. They are going to read through the parts that say, “This is how you get candidates to reveal their salary history” and continue to do those things.

  17. Sara*

    On Salary:
    I’ve received less than minimum in the past, and I’m always nervous when I have to put in my salary. I feel like I’m bringing up something negative about my employer, and also admitting that I’ve been desperate or naive in the past. I think that might make me look like I don’t value my worth, or enabled an employer. Also, some of that pay was through student jobs, with lower minimum wages. The trade off was that I was able to prioritize school over that job (at least in theory) and I wouldn’t get fired for having to adjust a shift for an exam. I don’t want that to reflect poorly on me.

  18. Sara*

    I have two big problems with DWYL aside from the general classicism.

    1. There is so much emphasis in the application on passion. There are some jobs for which truly passionate candidates are rare to find. For example, I’ve applied to several positions in environmental services. I studied communicable disease and environmental issues, so I actually am a little bit passionate about this subject, but I can’t imagine sustaining that passion through custodial work. I find it very difficult to project passionate for these types of jobs without seeming unbalanced. I wish I felt comfortable being able to freely admit “yeah, I know cleaning up these things can suck, but this work is important. I understand the chain of transmission and enjoy working around points of interest. I would love to work on building the most efficient routines for saving time (labor costs, opportunities for pathogens to spread) and also supplies.” I mean, I’m not passionate about custodial work, and I don’t want to do if for long, but I’d love to be there long enough to make up for my learning curve, provide reliable service, develop a few new techniques or follow through on some projects” and move on. How do you express passion for poop? vomit? trash? laundry? And without suggesting you’re a little weird? (I’ve been looking to start at a company in custodial services but still hold back from showing how much I wanted it which I guess might be holding me back…also limited experience).

    2. I think that DWYL, combined with the inability to talk about salary and ‘what’s in it for you,’ create a lot of anxiety unnecessarily in interviews. For example, today I had an interview for a part-time position (most of staff is part-time). I was very curious about how hours would be scheduled. I was also very curious about how flexible they were in accommodating other jobs. This would affect how I saw myself performing the actual job on a daily basis (would I be called in a few days before, were hours reliable, could I reasonably invest in organization material and resources to help me complete this job, could I concentrate on preparing for my shifts). I’m also interviewing elsewhere, perhaps, this month. That position might be full-time with benefits. The interviewer mentioned salary and hours first, so I did ask about if they were flexible. I was so nervous though, I sounding like I was asking if they let people leave shortly after training and then come back. Eventually I think I clarified that I meant would they be amenable to cutting hours or changing schedules. But it was the scariest part of the interview. I keep reading “don’t talk about what they can do for you/what you need” and “just focus on the job.” But there are realities out there: I will have to seriously consider taking a full-time job if given the opportunity. I thought maybe it was okay to feel that way because there were really no opportunities to work there full time and she mentioned salary first.

  19. FD*


    Years ago, my dad told me something that always really stuck with me.

    He said that there are three kinds of paid work in the world. None of them are better or worse than any other; they’re just different.

    First, there are jobs. Jobs are just about paying the bills: you can be good at your job, but you do it simply because you need the money, and you don’t choose to put energy into developing it further.

    Second, there are careers. People with careers are more oriented towards developing their work, sometimes preferring development over stability. Careers are one component of a person’s identity, but not the core part.

    Third, there are vocations. People with vocations to their work feel that their purpose in the world is inherently tied up with the work that they do. He said that this was the most rare kind of work, and that most people find their vocations in other parts of their life, whether that’s taking care of their family or charity work or something else.

  20. Harryv*

    re: DWYL

    I’ve been preaching against this for the longest time and my friends think I am a party pooper claiming I am squashing dreams. I don’t have much passion for my full time job. I have no passion to ensure major corporation’s network can talk seamlessly together and new sites are turned up on time. However, I am good at it. It is a challenging job and each day goes by really fast as there is nothing repetitive and the problems are different each time.

    This job is simply means to and end to what my real passion and “DWYL” is and that is to spend time with my family. The job has allowed me to buy a house, spend time on vacation, and live a great work-life balance so I can spend quality time with my family and two young boys. It also funds my passion which I do on my free time.

  21. HR Lady*

    I did some editing of the salary data (fixing job titles and the like). It looks like someone has re-sorted the data and messed up the geographic location column. (Luckily, I think that’s the only column that’s incorrectly sorted now.) I’m not sure how it could be fixed, unless the original creator can put the original column back in there. Or, maybe someone else knows Excel better than I do and can figure something out. I fixed a couple of the geographic location column entries, so if you see a few that look right, those might be the ones I did.

    1. HR Lady*

      I should have written, I’m not sure how it can be fixed easily. The “hard” way to fix it would be for someone to go in manually and update each geographic location.

      1. Khushnood Viccaji*

        Thanks for the heads-up HRLady.
        I’ve had a quick look at the file and it is indeed messed up :-/

        I’ll try and fix it without losing any major changes, but meanwhile, I would ask everyone NOT to work on the file, as any changes they make will be lost when I restore a fixed version of the file.

        Once I’m done with the changes, I’ll post a comment here, and people can start working on it again.

      2. Khushnood Viccaji*

        I’ve restored the file from an older version which looked ok to me.
        Unfortunately, edits made by people since then, would be lost.

        I think what happened is that someone sorted the *entire* column I (Location) and the table got messed up.

        So, just a request to everybody, going forward —
        if you’re not conversant with spreadsheets, please don’t try to use commands the Data>Sort or Insert>Rows/Columns (both these commands were used in the messed up worksheet).


  22. Tax Accountant*

    #2–I wrote the question in the original post! I’m so glad I wrote in and got this feedback. Now that i look back, I was in such a bad place in that time, personally and professionally…..17 months later, things have improved vastly; it’s not perfect and nothing is perfect but I’m still in a much better place than back then. I don’t have much time anymore to read the blogs or comments, which I miss, but I find myself repeating advice I’ve read often here. Love this blog!

    1. Tax Accountant*

      There are just so many things I *love* to do but I hit my limit. I love to shop, eat, have sex, cook, hang out with friends, smoke, read AAM. but I’m not interested in getting paid for any of that. It took me a long time to get that I’m not a loser for not wanting to somehow profit off of any of those (err except #3)

  23. mel*

    I never really clicked with “Do what you love” because, well duh… that seems pretty obvious but no one ever had any advice beyond that, such as: how?

    But one thing that did stick with me for some reason was “Don’t do something you don’t want to do.” That seemed more reasonable. I mean, even taking out the trash will become suddenly appealing when you open the door and your home smells like garbage, ha!

  24. anon*

    I really liked the segment on winter weather and the workplace. I work for a state government and it didn’t shut down during either of the extreme cold days because we didn’t get hit with very much snow. It takes a lot for businesses to shut down – at least 15 inches of snow over a 24 hour period. We’re in the Midwest and I consider 5 to 8 inches to be a normal snowfall. That being said I prefer snow to the extreme cold and ice. You can at least make it outside and it’s warmer. We were told to use our best judgment about making it in to work. I went in – it didn’t make much sense to use a vacation day when I could get to work and we usually get hit with a nasty snow storm in in the last part of winter.

    I did like the part about using some common sense with people who chose to work from home during inclement weather if they are able to. You know who is actually going to be online working and who is going to be catching up on their DVR based on their habits in the office. I had a project to do during the last cold snap that I could have easily done from home. I would have had to do some prep work on Friday afternoon and bought extra material home with me, but it was something that I could have done with less distractions than at work. I would not have been interrupted constantly to cover the desk among other things. The part that I needed to do without any interruptions was the data input because everything had to be checked for formatting. I had to go in and it took me twice as long to get it done with all the distractions.

  25. Mephyle*

    Re #2, DWYL, here’s my contribution: “You must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. […] You must not be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honourable to you to be doing something else.” As apt today as when George Eliot put into the mouth of her character in Middlemarch nearly 150 years ago. There is honour in doing your job well, whether your job is FD’s dad’s type 1, 2 or 3.

    (I don’t mean that it should preclude you from aiming higher, but doing so should be for personal growth, career advancement, increased earnings and so on, not because you think it is degrading to do the job you are doing.)

    1. Kit M.*

      Yes. I don’t care if someone loves their job, but it’s a shame when someone doesn’t take pride in doing their job well.

  26. Anonymous*

    Re: #2 I agree with this article but can we also add “and don’t do what you hate.” I feel like too many people have the idea that you should be grateful to have any job even if its terrible, soul crushing, or you work for awful people. You spend too many hours at work to be miserable for 40 – 50 hours a week, and quite frankly some jobs just aren’t worth the toll on your family, mental health, and actual health (as stress is a big cause of bad health). Strive for something in the middle of the love/hate spectrums.

    1. Gjest*

      Yes! I guess “Don’t do what you hate!” and “Do something that makes you reasonably satisfied taking into account paying bills and other things in life that make you happy outside of work!” don’t fit nicely into an acronym or on a t-shirt, though…

      I think it’s important that younger people just starting out take into account the reality of their career choice. When I work with younger people, I try to tell them this without sounding like a huge wet blanket. I wonder how successful I am at that.

  27. cs*

    #2 – I think people are making some very big assumptions about DWYL, especially the author of the article. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who isn’t doing something cool, isn’t loving their work. I used to work in retail. I left after a couple of years because I hated the work. However, I still have friends there who have either worked their way up the ladder or are still working at the sales level because they love what they do and they’re good at it.

    I also don’t know how the author can just assume lovable work equals creative, intellectual, and socially prestigious. Seriously? And to choose a career for personal reward, how can that be tied to socio-economic status? Lots of people who work in the creative field or any field, had to take out student loans in college. Even after college, lots of people in the creative fields have to hold a job unrelated to what they want to do until they can save enough to work on solely their creative work or until they land work in their chosen field.

    Obviously, if you are happy with the work you are doing now, even if it’s not something you are passionate about, even if it’s not a creative or intellectual-type of work, there is no need look for something else. Also, please don’t be offended by all this talk of doing what you love. This advice is probably meant more for those that hate their job and who don’t know what they want to do with their life (I am speaking from experience so I know). Yes, I know “do what you love” is also aimed at the dreamers in the world.

    1. Anonymous*

      The DWYL philosophy originated from a reasonable place–I like details and organizing things. I’m also someone who needs distractions. I’m terrible at “reading people” or convincing them to do something they are on the fence about. My current job involves working on a ton of projects and marshaling the details into digestible reports. I do quite well at it. I would NOT succeed at a sales position.

      However, few people analyze their “loves” in terms of types of tasks. Most of the time I hear people saying “I love music, so I want to get into the recording industry!” or “I really like sports so I want to be a sports reporter!” That approach is reinforced by countless articles that talk about people “who started doing X as a hobby and realized they could make a living at it!” I have an acquaintances who have managed to carve out incredible niche positions doing exactly what they love, but working towards that is the equivalent of winning the lottery. Sure it can happen but it’s relatively unlikely…unless–as this article points out–you come from a place of privilege where you have the financial means to be able to get by without a steady salary as you are starting out.

  28. Gjest*

    DWYL- My field is a very “DWYL” field (wildlife biology). I still enjoy it, and really do like the work that I do. However, now that I’ve been working in this field for almost 15 years, one of the biggest problems I see with DWYL is that it gives employers license to treat you like crap. Terrible wages, crappy benefits, poor management, etc. etc. because they know that everyone in this field is here because they are really do enjoy their work. I am lucky and have found a well paying job, but I moved to Europe. If/when I move back to the US, I will have a really difficult time finding a job with even close to as good salary/benefits. I see a decision in my future- go back to living paycheck to paycheck and also never retire, or change careers late in life. I am trying to build my skillset so that a career change may be an option. Because as much as I do love what I do, I am not willing to be poor and have no retirement savings for it.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yup…funny thing about my past “dream” career. Most of my coworkers left the industry in their mid-30’s, once they realized that their early successes didn’t result in long-term security. Because there was always a steady stream of young enthusiastic dreamers wanting to make their mark, wages were low and you constantly had to fight to prove yourself. Most enjoyed the struggle when they were starting out, but were exhausted by it after a decade of constantly walking a tightrope between starvation and meager existence.

    2. Elsajeni*

      Yes! I think this is an issue in many “DWYL” fields, or ones where the motivating factor is supposed to be “passion” or “vocation/calling” — you run up against this perception that a real teacher/artist/wildlife biologist/whatever would find the work to be its own reward, so if you complain about low pay or poor working conditions, obviously you’re not a real [whatever], you’re just a petty-minded mercenary person who got into the field for all the wrong reasons.

  29. Anonymous*

    I think that people should do what they love. I don’t understand the “job title specific” love – but I love my field, and I’ve worked in many different roles just so I can broaden my understanding of it. It’s not all fun, sunshine and roses, but it’s what I love. I’m not wealthy by any means, but I’m happy. I’m not wealthy because I’m being taken advantage of – I’m not wealthy because I chose a field that doesn’t pay very much.

    I thought it was interesting reading over these comments. It strikes me that just about everyone is doing what they love. I think I am looking at this from a broader and more inclusive perspective than most, in how I view life/work/family/etc. I’m an odd duck.

    I also found that the language on how the do what you love mantra is privileged were…. well privileged too. “Who would want to do that?” “Less lovable jobs” – um, plenty of folks do love fields that involve repetition, or are undistinguished. Why are those somehow lesser?

    Aside – I find this all fascinating as I’ve really been thinking/reading about institutionalized classism lately.

    I really believe the key is in education. Let’s expose kids to all sorts of things early, and see where their interests lie, and what they enjoy. Let’s talk more about economics and budgets, and set reasonable expectations of what the standard of living might be. Most of all, I think we need to focus on broader goals, with more adaptability. It’s corny, but I’d also like to start incorporating more career days. Anyway, there’s my stump. Now I am off to wrap up this work week!

    1. Anonymous*

      — “Who would want to do that?” “Less lovable jobs” – um, plenty of folks do love fields that involve repetition, or are undistinguished. Why are those somehow lesser?–

      They’re lesser because the pay is unlivable and people tend to treat you like dirt.

      Okay, as an example. I worked as a hotel housekeeper for several years. I was actually reasonably happy with the job; I’m not squeamish and I really hate dealing with people, so spending the day cleaning rooms by myself was A-OK with me. But did I love the work? Did I sit down and decide that I wanted to spend the rest of my life cleaning vomit off walls and being sexually harassed by bored business travelers? No. And literally no other housekeeper I’ve ever met did, either. We’re talking about people whose options are not ‘housekeeper vs. engineer, reporter, librarian, administrative assistant, what-have you.’ They’re ‘housekeeper vs. some other minimum-wage job that I would probably enjoy less.’ They might have picked housekeeping over retail or fast food, but they don’t have a broad enough range of options to say that housekeeping is really what they wanted to do with their lives. It was just the least-bad of the available choices.

      DWYL ignores that lack of options in favor of assuming that (a) anybody can get a job doing something they love and (b) therefore, if people are doing something they don’t love–or something they actively hate–that’s their problem, and not the potential result of systematic inequality.

  30. Mints*

    Happy to see this article again! I saw it on my other blog circles and glad to see the discussion here.
    Anyway, it seems like some people are taking issue with DWYL (I guess it’s an acronym now?) Because they read it within the context of “what did you love about previous jobs?” Which is a very very reasonable thing to think about. Do you like analysis, working with the pubic, working with small groups, mathematics, problem solving, etc etc. But DWYL isn’t used in that context lots of times. It’s not like “I like working with groups and logistics and analysts, I should be a project manager” it’s more like “I like painting and running on the weekends. How do I decide between professional triathlete and professional artist?”
    I mean, the question “What would you do if you won the lottery?” is as useful to me in career planning as “What super power would you chose?” But some people DO get to choose without thinking about making a living, so it’s a deeply classist way of framing career choice.
    (my answer is goddess of thunder, btw)

  31. Belinda Gomez*

    I didn’t know I was going to love what I do when I started the job, but I’m not likely to take advice from someone with a PhD in art history and no tenure-track job.

  32. Anonymous*

    Re #2 I have to point out a bit of conflicting professional expectations. I can accept that “do what you love” is misleading for a lot of people. BUT….when you walk into an interview you are supposed to love (or at least seem enthusiastic) about the work, company, mission, etc. Can you imagine having an in-person interview and when they ask “why are you interested in this job?” responding with “it seems like a stable position that won’t cause me too much stress and will pay my bills.” We aren’t supposed to do what we love, however, we are supposed to pretend to love what we do to get jobs, promotions, and salary increases. Perhaps its time to rethink the tirade on “do what you love” and instead help people understand its GOOD to have passion and enthusiasm that is balanced with practical concerns of finding a job that will fit your lifestyle, pay your bills, and that you can do well in.

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