On the conflicting nature of ‘work’


I appreciate the timing of this article: it publicly sheds light on the exploitative potential of the notion that you should ‘Do What You Love’ (DWYL). While I agree with what the article concludes, in a different frame of analysis I look at the DWYL mantra as a purely aspirational one. I can identify with the majority of the working population, as a student who works to supplement my income; at the same time I am very much aware of the temporality of my weekend job. It certainly isn’t ‘what I love’,  but I acknowledge that it is necessary. In any case it certainly doesn’t detract from my ambitions.

I also agree that DWYL, as it pertains to work, can be a means of manipulation and exploitation, as Tokumitsu explains. It can certainly cause alienation and consequent disillusion – one of the dangers which I hadn’t considered.

For me, what really matters when considering ‘work’ or a future career is maintaing a degree of integrity, conviction, ‘humanness’, and a willingness to learn in whatever I pursue. One thing I am currently struggling with is coming to terms with the value ascribed to ‘corporate’ work over other career paths. This is something that constantly makes me question and doubt my values and belonging within the workforce.  In an ideal world, of course everyone would be pursuing what they love but in reality, ‘what we love’ often remains a fantasy. I’m a bit of an idealist (even if I don’t have the means to be!) so this doesn’t always sit well with me. As a result, I’m constantly asking my parents and those around me who I consider ‘older and wiser’, if they love what they do. Although many of the jobs they do aren’t inherently creative or incredibly well-paid, to some extent they feel fulfilled.

For this reason I think the idea of DWYL doesn’t always mean that your job has to be that of your dreams, but keeping a sense of self within that job can help to alleviate potential alienation. I think we should apply the proverb ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’ proverb here. In other words we should critique the structural set-up of certain training and educational institutions, which adopt and encourage linear paths regarding work. Most often the focus is on training students for conventional jobs, which leads to indirectly perpetuating the cycle of ‘those who do well in the initial stages succeeding in life’, against ‘those who don’t do so well being relegated to sectors of the workforce for which they have no passion’. At any stage, we should not have to suppress who we want to be; we should not have to sacrifice our aspirations.


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