I like what I do for work.
It’s true I’d rather be a self-supporting writer living in Scotland, pushing out a new novel every few months. But that’s my dream. That’s not my reality right now.
My reality right now, what I actually do each day…I enjoy.
I’m a specialist. When you start out in aerospace engineering classes, people tell you that broadening your skills is critical to getting a good job. So I did that. I broadened my skills, while also finding something I was genuinely passionate about. That was astrodynamics. Basically, physics in space. And within that discipline, I particularly enjoyed interplanetary mission design: the physics of traveling to other planets.
And lo and behold, I got my first job not necessarily because I had all these broad engineering skills, but because my manager loved how passionate I was about my chosen specialty, astrodynamics and interplanetary mission design (IMD).
So I took that job, and for the last three and a half years I’ve been honing my skills in IMD. I do other things, sure, but mostly I gravitate toward what excites me, and that’s the challenging and creative problems that exist in my specialty. In my very (or maybe not so) humble opinion, IMD offers the most freedom of creativity in my field because it’s looking at things we’ve only done once, maybe twice in the history of humanity.
If you know anything about aerospace, you’ll know it’s a slightly scary industry to be in because there are highs and there are lows (like most industries and careers, it’s cyclical). Sometimes there’s funding, sometimes there’s not. Just because you have a job one day doesn’t guarantee you’ll have one the next.
That’s why the lowest risk thing you can do is broaden your skills. If somehow my job in IMD wasn’t necessary anymore, and I had built up skills in say, systems engineering (a discipline that Systems Engineers would describe as awesome and I would describe as pull-my-hair-out-boring), I might be able to snag another job more easily if my current one goes under.
But here’s the thing…I don’t want to learn systems engineering. I’ll do it here and there as it supports my current role and as long as it piques my interest, but I’m not going to do that whole “leave your current job after no more than three years and learn an entirely new skill, and then keep doing that until you’re the CEO” thing.
People often say this to me: I need to leave my current job because that’s what’ll push me forward. That’s what’ll give me job stability. That’s how I’ll climb the ladder and make lots of moolah and never have to worry about anything.
But I don’t want to.
You know how people often say, “you should be doing what you want to do, regardless of others expectations?” That’s usually in reference to quitting your job as an accountant because you really want to be an artist, or dropping out of law school because you decide you don’t want to learn how to professionally deceive and manipulate people.
Well, I’m thinking maybe I can take that sentiment in a different direction.
If you feel good about where you are, then stay.
I have no guarantees in life. I could lose my job tomorrow, and regardless of how many times I’ve switched groups or broadened my skills, I could still find myself without work. Switching roles would perhaps take away some of the risks, but not all of them.
And what’s more valuable? Your day-to-day happiness or your long-term stability?
I used to think it was stability, but now I’m coming to realize that stability is an illusion. There’s something to it, yes, and I shouldn’t act completely ignorant about this important quality of life. I shouldn’t refuse to learn ANYTHING other than interplanetary mission design. But when you tell me to sacrifice my day-to-day happiness, which is honestly what keeps me going in a career that I sometimes don’t feel particularly keen about to begin with, for an illusory stability that may or may not make a difference…well, I’m going to tell you that path is just not right for me.
So, if you’re in a “career” that makes you reasonably happy, try not to listen if someone is telling you to go against your gut and move around, or leave the group you’ve come to know as your family. Thank them for their perspective. It’s a valid perspective indeed, and good to think about thoroughly. For some people, it really is the right path.
But, if at the end of the day, you know in your heart that by leaving where you are your happiness will be compromised…choose to make the opposite decision. Choose to stay. And own that truth about yourself.
After all, as budding artists and writers, as family members and friends and people who know that there’s more to life than our work…it’s important to keep things in perspective. Your job serves two purposes: to support you and to keep you reasonably happy.
That’s all. And that’s ok.
What’s your perspective? Do you think it’s better to stay in a job that makes you happy or move to a different job in order to have more stability in your career? Does your chosen profession even work like this?
What are your values when it comes to your work? Happiness, stability, creativity, challenging assignments, good coworkers, or something else entirely? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!