Find the work you love and forget the rest

Apr 26, 2013

CareerCast.com ranked more than 1,000 American jobs, and determined that the worst job isn’t garbage collector, animal cage cleaner or Lindsey Lohan’s sobriety tester  – but journalist.

Yes!  Score!  Booyah!

They based their rankings on four criteria:

  • the workplace environment,
  • the industry’s future,
  • the job’s average income,
  • and stress.

Okay, it’s true: newsrooms aren’t pretty places.  The future looks bleak for newspapers.  You can make more money doing a lot of other things.  And, yes, the stress is very real.  The hours are bad and many of our customers think they can do it better – and often take the time to tell us that.

But journalists themselves have reacted to this ranking with all the cool, collected calm of Geraldo Rivera, or Nancy Grace.

But here’s why: newsrooms aren’t for everybody, but we like them – the hustle and bustle and energy and urgency.  We like the stress, too – no matter how much we complain about it – because it comes with doing work we think actually matters.

As for the future – it’s true, newspapers are committing a slow suicide, and that’s hard to watch. But my college students read more stories on the internet every day than we ever read in newspapers.

We haven’t figured out how to make money from the internet, where everybody expects everything for free, but we will.

We’re Americans.  Figuring out how to make popular things pay is what we do.

True, the salaries aren’t great, especially to start. But everybody I know is doing much better than the average cited, and if you stick with it, you can make a pretty good living in this business.

But that’s beside the point.

I don’t know a single soul who got into journalism – or teaching, preaching or nursing -- for the money.

And if they did – well, like Rick in Casablanca, “They were misinformed.”

These rankings are based on the assumption that work is a necessary evil, so our goal should be to minimize the pain while maximizing the gains.

But the vast majority of journalists I've worked with are extraordinarily passionate about their work.

By this cynical formula, if you can limit the hassle while taking the most, you win. That you might actually be passionate about what you do - or even that you should be - is not part of their equation.

But the vast majority of journalists I’ve worked with are extraordinarily passionate about their work – far more than the soulless corporate suits who closed their newspapers instead of selling them to investors who longed to keep them alive.

I turned down law school to do this – and I still consider that one of the best decisions of my life.

When you spend your life doing something you love, you’re probably going to do it better, and with better people.

Michigan’s late professor Christopher Peterson discovered that the biggest factor in job satisfaction is not pay or prestige, but having one great friend at work.  Well, in this business, I’ve had dozens – and still do.

Another bonus: I am never bored. Let me repeat that: I AM NEVER BORED. Ever. I don’t need more vacation, just more hours in the day.

When making most decisions, analysis and feedback are crucial.  But in the two most important decisions of your life -- your work, and your partner – the heart has reasons of which the mind knows nothing. And that’s why Freud said that when it comes to love and work, you must follow your heart, and not your head.

Find work you love, and forget the rest -- including moronic rankings in business magazines.  Because if you believe their priorities, you might find yourself in a joyless job compiling moronic rankings in business magazines.

And that would be a terrible waste.