Career: The Job You “Marry”

Is it possible to be good at something you don’t love?

Yes. Talent and motivation are related. One fuels the other. The more you love something, the more you’ll put effort into that activity for its own sake. The more effort you put that activity, the better you’ll become.

It doesn’t make sense to choose a career unless you greatly like or love the activity. The test is: Would you do this even without the requirement to make a living, if your finances were already set for life?

The distinction between a job and a career is a valid one. A job is something you do because it advances your interests—usually financially.

A career is something you ‘marry.’ You make a commitment to a certain type of productive work because you love it.

Often a career is a variation on what you’re already doing anyway. You formalize the activity by turning it into an exchange of goods and services. Sometimes a career choice is self-evident to a young adult or even a young child. More often, it takes time to identify a career choice. Some people struggle with making this identification well into adulthood.

It’s not impossible to have a happy life without a career choice. To some people, raising and educating their children competently fulfills the equivalent of a career. This is fine, so long as you recognize it’s a time-limited career choice. The purpose is to get your children into young adulthood with initially partial and later full autonomy. By putting yourself out of a job as a parent, you’ve succeeded.

For others, meaningful and serious hobbies form the equivalent of a career. This is particularly true in fields that don’t pay much, unless you hit it big—the arts, for example. Some will decide on a certain area to pursue meaningful fulfillment whether they make a living, or not. Their “paycheck job” subsidizes the activity they most look forward to doing. This can work, so long as there’s time and energy for both the paycheck job and the meaningful work. People without the responsibility of children can best pull this off. Their day job pays the bills, and the equivalent of raising children is provided by working on one’s career ambition after hours.

By all indications, it’s an objective need for human beings to live the most productive and purposeful life possible. There are many forms this can take. A career is the most likely outlet for actualization of this need, which makes it such an important area. Without a career of some kind, an individual will feel a lack of purpose and meaning in life. Life becomes about survival or going through the motions, but without the purpose and ambition that drives and fuels those actions. The concept “depression” is often codeword for: “I’m going through the motions but I don’t see any purpose to what I’m doing.”

While it is possible to be competent at something you don’t love, it’s not wise to limit yourself to an activity you don’t truly love. It may be prudent to keep a job you don’t love while you figure out the kind of work you’d yet like to ‘marry.’ But it doesn’t mean you can lie to yourself that ‘this is all there is,’ when better options are available, even options yet to be explored and discovered. In some cases, the pursuit and discovery of a career choice becomes the purposeful activity itself.

The possibility of a career presupposes a free economy and a free society. The free exchange of goods and services is the only context in which people can maximize their need to lead meaningful and productive lives. Only free and private economies grow; and individuals only have a chance of growing and flourishing under freedom. In a society with insufficient or even no freedom, the quest to restore or initiate freedom may become a meaningful career choice in itself.


Be sure to “friend” Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest.