This is an old ABC story from a couple of years ago, which I kept. It resonated with me because most of the jobs I’ve had have been pretty good. But there have been a few shockers. With the shockers, I walked.
Society tells us to do what we love. And if we love what we do, surely we will become good at it. But that seems to ignore a significant group of today’s modern workforce: experts who do not enjoy their field of expertise.
After a year of teaching philosophy and ethics at an Australian university, ‘Jeremy’, 44, couldn’t stand it any longer. The money was woeful, job security non-existent and the bureaucracy stifling.
The problem, Jeremy says, was that having a PhD, made him less employable and prone to prolonged financial difficulty. So he moved in to insurance.
“I never really thought I’d work in insurance. Insurance is so boring that no one wants to do it unless they have to, and as a result, it’s filled with leftovers from other careers.”
Jeremy says there’s little scope for progression in an industry that values “chatty, friendly talk and sales,” over the ability to analyse, construct complex arguments and inquire.
Jeremy is one of many workers who, despite being very good at their jobs, don’t enjoy what they do. It’s the activities outside work that help keep him intellectually stimulated, such as joining an emergency service and learning programming.
Sometimes people wake up after a long time of doing something, and they wonder, ‘I only have one life, is this what I want to do with it’? You’re allowed to change your mind about a job you once liked but no longer do — that doesn’t mean the expertise is gone with it.
People get stuck in a rut, and until they have some sort of shock, they can often stay in jobs they don’t like or find stressful for decades.
“Insurance has given me the freedom to no longer fear I won’t be able to pay my bills,” Jeremy says. “At least studying philosophy has taught me that things can be both interesting and boring at the same time, which really helps.”