In a perfect world, everyone lands a perfect job: they fit with the company culture; they love what they do; they get along well with their colleagues and bosses; they perform well; they make enough money to live comfortably.
Oh, how rarely this actually happens.
According to a Gallup poll released last year, there are two “actively disengaged” employees for every “engaged” employee worldwide. The full breakdown, per Forbes: 24 percent of the world’s employees are “actively disengaged”; 13 percent are “engaged”; the rest (63 percent) are simply “not engaged.”
We are far from the ideal world — we’re so wide of the mark that it’s almost comical. And yet, we still hand out career advice as if we live in a perfect world. We forget that job seekers spend months — sometimes years — trying to find employment. Meanwhile, we’re talking about “fit” and “values” and “passion.” These are all important things, of course, and the ultimate goal should be to find the position that meets these more complex needs one day.
But, sometimes, what you really need is a paycheck. Holding out for the perfect job can be expensive — or downright impossible.
I was reminded of this on Monday, when the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby did not have to cover contraceptives under employee insurance plans on religious grounds. As with any controversial ruling, there was a lot of public discussion of the case. While some decried both SCOTUS and Hobby Lobby, others simply suggested that people who disagree with the organization’s morals simply not work for the company — the “live and let live” approach.
But, here’s the thing: that’s not as easy as it sounds. Statistically speaking, most of us will not work for Hobby Lobby at any point in our lives — but some of us will. And some of us will work there because we don’t really have a choice to work somewhere else. Some of us will need that Hobby Lobby paycheck to put food on the table. Maybe we’re in-between jobs, or maybe it’s the only place hiring in town: whatever the case, some of us will end up working for Hobby Lobby, completely opposed to the company culture, not at all passionate about what we do, and we’ll just have to stick it out until we find something better.
This is what the job search looks like for a lot of us.
A Lesson from a Satirical News Site
Finding a job is complicated. It’s difficult and time intensive. After an extended period of un/underemployment, your standards flag. You become not just willing to accept a job you don’t particularly care for, but eager — because, hey, the car payment is three-months overdue.
Even when the picture isn’t rosy, there’s power in articulating the truth. Such an act makes reality easier to face, to contemplate, to swallow — and then, eventually, improve.
ClickHole, the Onion’s answer to BuzzFeed, recently posted the satirical listicle “8 Simple Tricks That Will Help You Ace A Job Interview But Rob You Of Your Innocence.” There’s nothing less funny than explaining a joke, but the gist of the list is that the job search is a process of manipulation and fakery in which the best liar wins.
The “simple tricks” of ClickHole’s list are all normal bits of advice that almost anyone would give to a job seeker: “think about your answers before speaking”; “send a thank-you note afterwards”; etc. Quite rightfully, ClickHole points out how practiced and insincere these techniques often are. If you’re being optimistic, you could call it diplomacy, but let’s be realists for a minute: you’re thinking before you speak because you’re trying to formulate the right answers, not the honest ones. Likewise, you’re sending a thank-you note because you hope it makes you look good, not because you’re actually thankful.
Ideally, this won’t be the case. You’ll know you’ve found a job that’s perfect for you when you can be honest — when you’re sending the follow-up thank-you note out of sincere gratitude, not as part of a calculated strategy. But we’re not always going to have the ideal job. Sometimes, we need to get something else while we’re looking for the perfect role.
I mention the ClickHole piece because I think it’s actually quite instructive: by poking fun at the fakery that often goes into the job search, it helps us come to grips with reality. Not every job you have will be ideal. That’s okay. Once you accept that, your life will be easier while you search for that perfect role — because it’s out there, even if it’s not in front of you yet.