Is It a Good Idea to Love Your Job?

career coaching career happiness work life balance Apr 02, 2024
White woman with brown hair shrugging her shoulders as if saying

 If you’ve been hanging out with me for long enough, you know I approach career coaching in a slightly different way. While other coaches might push you to look for a job you love, I’m the weird career coach who doesn’t want you to love your job - at least, not too much. 

We often hear how important it is to love our work. Of course, I want you to have a fulfilling job with purpose, challenge, great leaders, and great culture. And if you don’t have that right now, I want to help you believe that you deserve it, and it’s possible - even if it takes some time to get there. 

But here’s the thing: Work won’t love you back. I don’t want you to love your job more than you love the rest of your life. And I don’t want you to neglect the rest of your life in order to get or keep a job you love. 

There’s an important balance to strike when it comes to finding a career you love. On one hand, it’s hard for the rest of your life to go well if your job sucks. Likewise, if you love your job too much, you might end up missing out on irreplaceable life experiences. 

So what’s the verdict? Does it matter whether you find work you love doing? Before you answer, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of loving your job.

Pros of Loving Your Job 

So what are the pros of loving your job? 

Increased Engagement at Work 

When you love your job, you’re naturally going to be more engaged at work. Increased engagement can mean better performance at work, and standing out from the crowd in your own right. It’s easier to contribute to a healthier work environment and a stronger company culture when you’re all-in. 

In my corporate career, I was part of two standout product management teams—one in cybersecurity and risk management, and one in EdTech. In each scenario, for a period of time, I experienced the magic of a great team. You know, the kind where a  small group of professionals reported to a boss we all respected. A team where we all got along, helped one another, and collaborated like the bosses we were. During those times, I experienced my highest engagement and greatest level of productivity in my life. To this day, I’m still friends with some of the people from those two teams. 

Recent research continues to show that employees are more productive and work harder when they’re happy at their jobs. While this information skews positive, it can actually be a bad thing if you don’t have healthy boundaries in place. You might find yourself working too hard, so if you land a job you love, proceed with caution and awareness. 

Greater Productivity at Work and in Life 

Loving your job makes it easier to be productive and hit your target goals and deadlines. Data shows that happy employees are 13% more productive at their jobs. But the productivity boost doesn’t stop there. Feeling accomplished at work can lend itself to being more productive in your everyday life, too. 

We’ve all known people who hated their jobs, and brought that energy into their home life, relationships, friendships, and more. Heck, even if you've never personally seen it, you’ve likely run across it if you're a big John Grisham fan or someone who likes all of the Law & Orders where you see stereotypical attorneys  who make partner or cops who are promoted to lieutenant, but are twice-divorced alcoholics who have no relationship with their kids. 

Beyond productivity, feeling happy with your work could help you show up as your best self in other areas of your life. If you want to be happy on a holistic level, having a job you love is a good start. 

Motivation to Grow Professionally 

Becoming more engaged can also drive you to take on more challenges at the office, going the extra mile for your coworkers and your company. You might feel motivated to grow your skill set by taking courses and getting new certifications. And, you might find that being involved in professional associations also lights you up. 

For instance, I’ve been involved with the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®) over the years because I helped start the local Kansas City chapter **mumblemumble** years ago. At the time I originally joined, I was in a role leading a Business Analyst team that was challenging in mostly good ways. Feeling motivated at work made all the difference and gave me the boost I needed to get involved. 

A Stronger Sense of Purpose 

Having a job you love can ignite a stronger sense of purpose and fulfillment within you. When we love our jobs, there’s a chance that our values overlap with our company’s values and the work we’re doing. If that’s the case, it has a greater impact on both your work and life. 

Positive Impact on Workplace Relationships

Finally, when you feel great about work, you can have a positive impact on your workplace relationships. You’ll be more engaged, easier to collaborate with, and more likely to motivate your fellow coworkers. Essentially, when you love work, you might be a better person to work with. 

The Cons of Working at a Job You Love

Now that we’re clear on the pros of loving your job, what about the cons? It seems counterintuitive that working at a job you love could have its downsides, but stay with me. 

Strong Risk of Work-Life Imbalance 

First, if you love your job, you’re actually at risk of experiencing work-life imbalance. It’s true that working an all-consuming job you hate can negatively impact the rest of your life. But did you know that being head-over-heels in love with your work can create the same detrimental effects outside the office? 

If you really love your work, you have to be very purposeful about creating a healthy work-life balance. You need to make sure you’re not giving too much of yourself to your work. Additionally, it’s important to understand that your boss could gaslight you into giving too much of yourself in the process, so be aware of that. 

Blurred Boundaries and Burnout  

Loving your job too much can lead you directly into burnout. That’s because overwork, poor work-life balance, and blurred boundaries combine to lead you down that path before you even realize it. When you love your work, it can bleed into every area of your life. And, it’s highly possible that by the time you realize you’re burned out, you will have fallen out of love with your dream job. 

I’ve had this experience more than once, including at a job I really enjoyed for a long time. I had a great boss, but everything fell apart after a leadership change tanked the work environment. Before my boss was replaced, I had already been overworked. That sucked even when I enjoyed what I was doing. But when leadership changed, things went downhill quickly. 

Work went so far off the rails that it ended up taking 2.5 full-time employees to cover my workload when I left. And after I bowed out, I needed several months to rest and recover before I started to feel like myself again. 

Not exactly a fairy-tale ending, right?  

Turns out, the job you absolutely love can quickly turn into a job you hate. We don’t like to think about that possibility, but it happens all the time. Dealing with burnout and poor boundaries can lead to this shift, as well as a working environment you idealized that turns out not to be what you’d hoped.  

Setbacks and Failures at Work Feel More Personal

Loving your job too much can mean that setbacks and failures in the workplace can feel more personal, and therefore more damaging to you. I’ve personally had this experience before. 

I’ve worked at more than one job where I truly enjoyed the work I was doing, and fully believed in it and myself. I loved the people I worked with, too. So if a project didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I received negative feedback, or something went wrong, it felt more personal and soul-crushing. In those cases, a little more emotional distance might have served me well. 

 Over my years as a career coach, several clients have told me, “Sometimes I wish I could just care a little less.” I’ve felt that way at a few jobs, too. It’s heart-wrenching to put your all into a job you love, and still experience setbacks, failures, and painful feedback. 

A Firing or Layoff Can Be More Devastating 

If you’re deeply engaged with a job you love, a firing or a layoff can be much more devastating to your emotional health, mental health, and self-esteem. Maybe you don’t just love the work part of the job; you also love the people and the company. If that’s the case, you’re at risk of letting the job become too much of your identity. 

When a firing or layoff happens - especially if you’re blindsided - that challenges your identity. According to data from Gallup, 55% of workers draw some semblance of identity from their jobs. And according to a Pew Research Center report, 53% of professionals who have experienced a job loss feel like they’ve lost part of who they are. 

The more unexpected the circumstances, the more devastating the impact. This can negatively impact your general confidence as a professional, but it can also hit your social circle, too. That’s especially true if you have many social connections at work, and suddenly feel cut off from them. 

In short, if you depend too much on your job for your identity, it can be difficult to separate from that. That can be potentially dangerous on many levels. On the most practical level, it can make it unnecessarily hard to search for your next job - which is the #1 thing you need to be able to focus on. 

To Love or Not to Love Your Work… That is the Question

As a career coach, I want to see you thriving at a job that checks off your most important career boxes. At the same time, you deserve to experience a fantastic life, too. Don’t invest yourself so deeply in your job that you miss out on other equally essential life experiences. 

Looking for insights into how you can grow more effectively, both professionally and personally? I offer Career Growth & Alignment strategy sessions and VIP Alignment Days to help you build a future career trajectory that works for you in all areas of your life. Learn more and get in touch here