Want to be happier in your career? Stop caring about your job.
At some point during your career, you’ll almost certainly listen to a demoralized coworker complain about their job. They’ll lament the extra effort they put in, the lack of recognition from the higher-ups, and how pointless and inefficient the policies are. When this happens, I hope you respond by validating their feelings, and being empathetic and supportive. And then I hope you give them one single piece of advice:
Stop caring about your job.
Which isn’t to say “stop caring about your work.” You should care about the work that you do. You should take pride in doing good work that is useful, ethical, and professional. But that’s your work, not your job.
Your job is a transaction.
Your employer needs work done, which you are capable of doing. You do that work for them, and they compensate you for it. That is the entire relationship. Forget the mission statement. Ignore the CEO’s talk about how “our people believe in our product.” Stop trying to believe that “this place is like one big family.” You are being paid for the value that you provide, and that’s all, and that is okay.
If you’re pulling back from this sentiment because you find it too cold, do a quick thought experiment for me. Imagine that tomorrow, the company you work for decides they’re going to do something totally different, like make shoes (on the off chance you already work for a company that makes shoes, pretend that your company is now making, I don’t know, ice cream scoops). You’ll still be doing the same basic job, which is somehow perfectly applicable to shoe/ice cream scoop production, for the same compensation, with the same people. Would you quit, because that’s not the job you signed on for? No, probably not.
Okay, now let’s say that the company you work for decided they were going to do what they already do, but better than ever, and all they need to do to accomplish that is give you a 25% pay cut. Now do you quit? Yeah. Of course you do. And you should. Because you’re not there to further the grand cause of shoes or ice cream scoops or whatever product they make. You’re there to do a job, and be compensated fairly…