Unhappy careers lead to unsuccessful careers

By Career Happiness

Twenty five years ago, I was a summer associate at a big Washington DC law firm. One day, I walked into the law library and saw Alex, one of the partners, reading a thick journal of dense court decisions. He sat in a large reading chair engrossed, as if he were reading a great novel. The partner I was standing next to noted: “Alex does this every month when new decisions come out in the legal journal.” That was why Alex was successful.

“Eileen”, a paralegal at the same firm. When given assignments, she politely accepted the work but gave off the energy of someone getting another 50 pound weight added on their cart. She was fired by the end of the summer.

In providing career coaching over the last decade and through mere observation of the work world over several decades, it has become abundantly clear that those who don’t like their careers usually end up unsuccessful.

Consider the following hypothetical:

While in real life, the conditions are too simplistic, imagine two groups of new career starters with the same native abilities/experience and anything else that would put members of each groups on equal footing.

But we’ll divide the two groups into:

(1) those who like their work and

(2) those who don’t like their work.

Those that like their career will think about how to improve their work during off hours. They will read about the field. They will come in on time or earlier and leave a bit later. They won’t mind putting in time on the weekends or other off hours. While at work, they will be engaged and thus learning at a fast pace. Management will pick up their positive body language, energy, and attitude. That will help them move upward.

Those that don’t like their career will do none of those things. After work, they won’t think about work except due to anxiety. If they come in early, stay late or work on weekends, it will stem either from a boss’s order or simply out of worry about keeping their job. They will be bored at work and thus learning at a slow pace. Management will pick up those negative body language cues, the looks of disinterest, and those grumbles about working late.

You have to leave work you don’t like, not only because you are unhappy, but because soon enough you will also not be good at what you do.