Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Finding a Job You Love

Was excited to come across the following article in The New Yorker: 'The Incalculable Value of Finding a Job You Love'.

(Yes, I am *still* looking for work. No, I haven't found that permanent job yet. And yes, I'm still optimistic.)

I like it where it says that the key to finding interesting work and getting paid for it is to become an expert at something - and the best way to do that is pick something you can actually stand:

'The psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his co-authors have estimated that many thousands of hours of difficult practice are required for true expertise at any task. That’s why my first response when students seek advice on how to succeed is to ask whether any activity has ever absorbed them completely. Most answer affirmatively. I then suggest that they prepare themselves for a career that entails tasks as similar as possible to that activity, even if it doesn’t normally lead to high financial rewards. I tell them not to worry about the money.'

'My point is that becoming an expert is so challenging that you are unlikely to expend the necessary effort unless the task is one that you love for its own sake. [...]'

'The happiness literature has identified one of the most deeply satisfying human psychological states to be one called “flow.” It occurs when you are so immersed in an activity that you lose track of the passage of time. If you can land a job that enables you to experience substantial periods of flow, you will be among the most fortunate people on the planet.'

... Remember 'flow'? Remember all that stuff we learned from the Procrastination Bible, how we tried to manufacture a flow state to get some work done on our PhDs?... When I first went to see my lovely therapist, she ended our first session by asking me what I am doing when I am really concentrating, when I am working effortlessly. I found myself telling her excitedly about my more creative, unpaid, fun projects. She thus sent me away from that first conversation with my head filled with thoughts of activities which I am good at, and which make me really, really effortlessly concentrate. It was a very clever trick which meant I left ever so slightly cheered up (see, I am good at some things.... Just not PhDs... )


I had once heard a friend tell me that, when she was setting off to go to university for the first time, she mentioned to a family member that she might try and sit in on some 'classes in economics' - 'because then I can get a good job'.

He asked her, 'Do you WANT a job for which you need to know economics?...'

And she replied 'No...'

And then he told her, 'Just do whatever it is that you want to do, and give it 100% - and you will succeed.'


... Alas, whilst one is figuring out what it is one wants to do and succeed at, and learning how to do it, one does still need to pay bills. I came across a picture of a cushion on Pinterest the other day, and the slogan on the cushion said

"I do many things well, none of which generate income"

Was a bit relieved to think, guess I'm not alone.

CN xx


  1. Hi CN,
    Thanks for your continued blog writing despite being over the phd hurdle. I'm still really enjoying reading them :-)

    1. Hi Argggggg!... So nice to see you on here, as always. I hope everything is going great for you!.... :)