There is No Such Thing as a Perfect Job

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This morning I rolled out of bed and thought to myself:

I don’t want to go to work today. I don’t feel like getting dressed, commuting in traffic, sitting through pointless meetings, or putting forth effort on a project I don’t care about. 

But then I remembered something I recently heard Paula Plant say on an episode of the Afford Anything Podcast.

A listener had called in and shared that he was forty years old and six years away from financial independence. The problem, he explained, was that he just didn’t enjoy his current job that much. He asked Paula if she thought it was best for him to just tough it out for six more years or if it was a better idea to pursue entrepreneurial projects.

Paula explained that the choice was ultimately up to him because only he knew just how much he didn’t like his current job.

But she followed this up with an interesting insight, something along the lines of:

“Just know that every job sucks a little bit. Even for entrepreneurs. It’s likely that quitting your current job and working for yourself won’t make you much happier. You’ll still find aspects of entrepreneurship that you can’t stand.”

In one of my favorites posts from Ty at Camp FIRE Finance, he shares a similar idea that his dad taught him about work when he was younger: 

“The picture Dad had painted was crystal clear: You can choose a profession that pays well or you can choose a profession that doesn’t, but either way you’re going to work hard. Why not get paid well for your hard work?!”

This idea resonates with me. Over the past five years I have held a wide variety of jobs including retail worker, math tutor, research assistant, data analyst, and now data scientist.

In each of these jobs, there were schedules that I didn’t always feel like following.

In each of these jobs, there were days when I didn’t feel like going to work.

In each of these jobs, I had to deal with a few annoying coworkers, bosses, or clients.

No Job is Perfect

The more work experience I gain, the more I begin to understand the message that both Paula and Ty’s dad were preaching:

There is no such thing as a perfect job

Every job has its unique downsides.

Every job requires hard work.

Changing jobs probably won’t impact your happiness as much as you think. A job is a job.

You should at least get paid well for your hard work.

And in my current job I earn a significantly higher income than any previous job, I have more vacation time than ever before, and I even have the freedom to work from home occasionally. 

All things considered, I am in a pretty good position.

I certainly don’t plan on keeping this job for several years, but while I’m still building a savings cushion and ramping up my incomes outside of my day job, I’m learning to be grateful for this high income while patiently acquiring the financial means to work for myself.

I plan on using this job to pick up new coding skills and pad my net worth. It’s not a perfect job, but then again “perfect jobs” don’t exist.

Further Reading:

On Using My Interests to Pursue Income, Mastery, and Enjoyment

I Make $130k Per Year But I Hate My Job. Help!

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12 Replies to “There is No Such Thing as a Perfect Job”

  1. Thank you! I needed that! 🙂

    I have about five years left to go. But every now and then, I realize again and again that I don’t want to do it even for five years. The only reason I am still doing it is because I don’t know what else I can do for that long. Probably longer because my salary now is pretty good!

  2. True points Zach. I work in early retirement as a part-time university teacher. It’s something I always wanted to do and like it, but it’s not perfect and there are aspects of the work I do not enjoy.

    Back in my full time corporate days, I came to the point where I really disliked my situation but viewed it as a means to a better end. Even for those in a job they do not care for, there are reasons to appreciate it for what ever it is and provides to life at the moment and in the future.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think there is a perfect job out there for anyone. Some say the pay is great but the work sucks. Other are happy with their work and boss, but the pay could be better.

    To quote your post, “A job is a job. You should at least get paid well for your hard work.” A job with the least amount of bull to put up with and good pay is a keeper (temporarily). But does it beg the question: “Will your career get stale?” “Are you developing new skills?” “Are you challenged or limiting yourself?”

    I have a good days and bad days with my job and my managing director is an acquired taste (<= best words I have), but it pays well. My income is the single greatest wealth driver right now, so I just deal with it because I know it will buy back time in the future.

    Thanks for posting this. We all can relate.

    1. It’s always good to be learning new skills, growing, developing etc. and if your current job doesn’t offer that, it could be a good idea to move on. Job hopping can also be one of the fastest ways to increase income, which I have experienced myself firsthand. I just think there’s a tendency to believe the grass is always greener elsewhere. It’s rarely true.

  4. I’m reading this while waiting in the parking lot for an interview and I really needed to hear this.

    I’ve been on a bunch of interviews this week and I’m mentally nitpicking all the jobs on my way home. It’s good to have a reminder that I won’t find a perfect fit.

  5. I worked years past financial independence because my job was a lot of fun. I know that is sort of rare and of course not every day was perfect but a lot of them were and most of the time when I woke up on Monday morning I felt good about going to work, and excited about what I’d be doing that day. I listened to that podcast, I love Paula Pant, she’s so smart and funny, and I thought that was very good advice. However I do question staying in a meh job if there is any chance that you could find your dream job. I was lucky, the first and only job I had after college was my dream one. I have part time consulting side gigs now to stay entertained and challenged and they are also a lot of fun.

  6. Good post Zach. The more you don’t enjoy your job the more important savings rate becomes. Especially if you have a high income, otherwise it is just a waste of your time and effort.

  7. I feel the same. When I think about leaving, I consider the good (not great) salary and flexibility I’ve achieved by being at my job for a while. The things I don’t like — pointless meetings, office politics, occasional micro-managing — probably exist everywhere. Also, interviewing eager applicants for the same position I currently hold has given me perspective on the positive aspects of my job. While on the hiring committee, I often say, “there’s no perfect person.” On the flip side, there’s no perfect job.

  8. This is true – to a degree. Though there are definitely jobs that you’ll like more than others. I like my job at least 80% of the time, which is pretty damn good. Hobbies are the same way as well, so even “retiring” from regular work won’t escape from the don’t like parts of work entirely.

  9. “You can choose a profession that pays well or you can choose a profession that doesn’t, but either way you’re going to work hard. Why not get paid well for your hard work?!”

    I LOVE THIS and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a ton lately. I definitely work hard for pay that isn’t great, and knowing I could be working hard for much better pay weighs heavy. Just have to figure out what that might mean.

    I’ve also come to the conclusion recently that NO job is totally perfect, and it’s made me reflect on whether my jobs in my field have really been as terrible as I’ve made them out to be in my mind sometimes or if they are just regular jobs. It’s a lot to think about but some version of that quote about a profession that pays well or one that doesn’t keeps ringing in my head – Ultimately I’d rather do something different that pays well, even if I don’t like it either, than keep doing something I don’t like that doesn’t pay well either. Awesome post, Zach!

    1. I definitely agree that it’s better to be doing something that pays well whether or not you actually love the work. One of my favorite articles that discusses this idea comes from Derek Sivers: Basically, he suggests that people pursue a day job that pays well and use the time outside of the job to pursue your interests, passions, true art, etc. I like this idea because I think it applies nicely to people who are trying to reach financial flexibility relatively quickly – make the best of the journey by earning a decent income at your day job and still do what you enjoy outside of work.

      Glad you found this post helpful, Emilie! I’m excited to see where your journey takes you 🙂

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