Topic from November 2004

Should we advise our students not to look for fulfillment in their careers? According to an article in Parade Magazine, “Stop looking to be fulfilled at work, advises financial expert Stephen Pollan. 'We're taught to follow our passions, and the money will come,' he explains, 'but fulfillment should come from your personal life, not your job.' Pollan, 75, says a job should be seen as something that supplies income and security and hopefully is something you do well—not as a substitute for experiencing life.” What's your opinion?

Your Responses

Choosing a career that fulfills you is paramount in my mind. You spend at least eight hours a day or more and the work you do should be fulfilling, otherwise your self-esteem will be low, thus affecting your personal life. I would definitely steer students toward a career that is fulfilling.

-Sheila Nyjordet, Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), November 2

Forty hours a week, almost 2,000 hours a year is a lot of time to not be happy. Without finding fulfillment on the job, can you make up for it off the job? Not likely, in my opinion. Even today, money still cannot buy happiness on the weekend. Fulfillment at work, in my personal experience, has brought happiness into my life without a large paycheck. I am grateful that I have placed a higher value on job fulfillment than financial success. Interesting point of view, but I think it is swayed by the media's distortion that material wealth and power makes us happy.

-Michael Sullivan, Ferris State University, November 2

Oh, is this guy ever wrong!

There are 168 hours in a week. I spend around 50 of those hours at work, 15 hours taking a class, 10–15 hours a week in the car and 56–60 hours sleeping. That leaves me with 28 hours to do chores, cart my teenager all over the state, solve daily family crises, talk to my parents, visit with my friends, and visit with my husband. Yes those 33 hours are fulfilling, but I am still spending the majority of my waking hours at work. Why would I want to spend that time simply searching for money and security (which being an academic adviser does not provide)?

If a student is going to spend $30,000.00 and more and 4–6 years of their life getting an education, why shouldn't they expect to have a job they love? Life is short and precious, we shouldn't waste that time pursuing only money and security.

-Susan Noble Herren, Auburn University, November 2

I disagree. You should find your fulfillment wherever you can. The distinction between “work” and ”personal” life is pointless. You arise each morning and Nature gives you a day to find a feast of enjoyable things to do. You also have to forage for the survival of your family. What's the difference where it happens, or between which hours? The artificial distinction between work and play makes for other meaningless words like “workaholic,” “retirement,” “career,” “job,” and so on.

-Greg Keating, SUNY—Upstate Medical University, November 2

I think it's frightening that this question is even being asked; we've been warned that this day would come. One such warning was the film The Matrix, where humanity is enslaved as mere batteries to the machine world. Most of humanity is unaware of their enslavement because the machines have them believe they are experiencing life in the way they are accustomed. Some humans have been freed from the Matrix and are struggling to liberate humanity from its ignorant enslavement. At least one human decides that ignorance is bliss and wants to go back.

Apparently Mr. Pollan thinks we should shift back-and-forth between being a cog in a wheel and being human on weekends and holidays. It's a good thing the rest of the world doesn't believe this. Otherwise productivity would suffer; most young people would feel despair about the future instead of hope; and some workers might feel so de-humanized that they engage in acts of violence against others.

Apparently for Mr. Pollan it's a good thing that ignorance is bliss, but for the rest of us, I'm not so sure.

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win
you're still a rat.” —Lily Tomlin

-Steve Estes, Northern Illinois University, November 2

Finding fulfillment in your work is the difference between having a job and having a career. I advise students that you train for a job, education is for a career. A career should be part of your fulfillment in life, not separate from it.

-Heather Seabaugh, Southeast Missouri State University, November 2

Why would someone want to increase their stress level by subjecting themselves to a life of endless torment and misery? MONEY? I'm sorry, but if I were suffering from stress and in a job I truly detested, no amount of money could compensate. I find myself advising students to do things they enjoy so their quality of life will be better. I truly enjoy my job, and I'm sure there are millions of others out there who would agree with me. Mr. Pollan, you're not too old to find your niche in life, volunteer to help others and see the difference you can make in a person's life.

-Gerald A. Hert, Vandenberg AFB Education Center, November 2

Fulfillment in one's job should take priority over financial motivation. Ask most civil servants, be they local, state, or federal employees, if they do it for the money or fulfillment, and the hands down winner will be fulfillment. We sure aren't doing if for the money!

-Ken Derenzy, US Air Force Education Services, November 3

I agree that “work isn't everything,” but work is a major part of our life experiences. I advise my clients to enjoy whatever they choose to do in life, and that includes the work they choose. Don't like the work, then change jobs. Work doesn't always need to be fulfilling, but it does need to be satisfying. A fulfilled life should come from all that we do, both personal as well as professional. I agree a job should be seen as something that supplies income and security, but also something that has a share in our total life fulfillment. Yes—do put yourself in charge of your working life, but also “in charge of all aspects of your life.”

-William Phillips, Dyess AFB, November 3

I see Stephen Pollan's point. Work is a part of our life; it is not our life. I enjoy my work, but I am fulfilled by things outside of my work. Work is what I do and not who I am. We will change jobs or lose jobs or change careers, but we should still maintain our fulfillment no matter what. So I think we should advise our students that it is important to pursue their avocation as well as their vocation.

-T. V. Polite, Marine Corps Logistics Base, November 4

In my opinion, advising students to “not look for fulfillment in their careers” is like advising individuals against marrying for love. Career choice involves a good deal of person-environment fitting, self-knowledge, and values clarification. In addition to being unhappy, those who are “unfulfilled” in their choice will likely be less motivated, less productive, less healthy, and ultimately less successful than those who enjoy what they do “more days than not.”

-Robin Torres, Marist College, November 15

Hmmmm ... let's see. If I weren't happy doing my job, I don't think I could manage well in the rest of my life.

As for the students, I encourage them to make a career out of whatever they love—whether it be hanging out in the wilderness or designing websites.

If you are not satisfied, on some level, in your professional life—it makes it just that much harder to go to work in the morning.

-Kara E. Lattimer, Virginia Tech, November 15

I disagree with Mr. Pollan for a number of reasons. One, I do not equate my career with work. My career is something I have chosen because I have a passion for it. And as others have stated, we do spend an inordinate amount of time at our jobs, so we should at least enjoy it, most of the time. We all have days when we don't like what we do.

Should we substitute work for our lives? No, of course not. Many people do not have the experience of doing what we, as advisers, do so well. We should not define our entire being by our jobs, but to say that fulfillment should come from your personal life and not your job is a very narrow view of life.

Now, I have a unique situation, I advise prospective educators, so I already know they are not going to make lots of money and therefore there must be another reason for pursuing this career. So, I believe that students should find some part of fulfillment in their careers but also have an outside passion also. This quote by Sarah Bernhardt says it well: “Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” By investing ourselves in the world, we hopefully make the world a better place.

-Lynne A. Carlson, University of South Florida–Tampa, November 16

I definitely believe we must teach our students to find fulfillment in their chosen profession. Yes, a career is work. But that work should be an extension of what and who you are. I am a nursing educator and a nurse. If a professional nurse does not enjoy what they do, they cannot be effective in their work. I advise my students to have a passion for nursing by demonstrating my excitement about my chosen career every time I stand at the bedside of a patient as I teach the “Art of Nursing.”

-Danette Wood, Georgia Southern University School of Nursing, November 24

Working for a paycheck alone may work for some—for others, myself included, working merely for a paycheck is an oppressive burden. Some folks need to express their life, interests, and values in their work to be fulfilled. Psychological type and values are important considerations in choosing a career.

-Norman S. Stahl, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, July 17, 2007

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