Why do you do what you do when you do do do…

To paraphrase The Eagles: do you do it for love? Do you do it for money? Do you do it for spite? Do you think you have to, honey?

Ever think about why your career is your career? I know some of you don’t, it’s just what you always wanted to do and you’re doing it and you’re happy as pigs in a mudbath.

Others of you are probably in the same position as I am: you have a couple of things that you like to do, or are good at, and you were able to find a career that uses those skills and puts bread on the table, though you may have never found the exact configuration of skills + job that pleases your soul.

Still others, however, and I know some of you personally, fell into your jobs and never came back out — you needed work, that was the work that seemed reasonable, or was available, at the time, and years later it either doesn’t seem possible to change — because what else can you do? — or there’s no other work or you’d have to go back to school and who has the time or money for that, or you’d have to move and your whole social support network is here … there are many more excuses — I know, I’ve used them all.

I’ve changed jobs twice (well, three times if you count my brief recent freelance career) in the past five years, but before that I spent a lot of time in a job that was really unfulfilling because … well, see above re: excuses.

The most valid, all-encompassing excuse I had, however, was the one I never confessed to anyone: sheer, unadulterated terror. What was I afraid of? Everything. I was shy about meeting new people, of having to rise to new expectations, of having to come out of my shell and renounce my victimhood — because let’s face it, there’s a sick sort of pleasure to be had in knowing you’re better than your job, you can be smug about knowing you’re smarter than that, all the while never having to prove it. And if the money’s good enough, it can be borne.

Sometimes, you (I) need a good kick in the butt to convince you (me) to stop doing something soul-deadening and start looking after your (my) best interests. And a layoff is as good a butt-kicker as anything. So I ask you again, do you do it for love? Do you do it for money? Do you think you have to, honey?

If you’re doing it for love, then go forth and find love again, with my blessing.

If you’re doing it for money, well, the money train has left the station, maybe you can use your layover to look for alternate modes of transportation.

And if you think you have to, but there’s something else that you always wanted to do, this is the best chance you’ll ever have to give it a try. If you’re a drycleaner because your parents were and it was always assumed that you would enter the business, but you really want to paint houses or design widgets or plant trees in British Columbia — what’s stopping you?

Because let’s face it, it takes an intestinal fortitude that most of us will never muster to leave a paying job with benefits to chase a dream. Finding a new career takes some work and doesn’t happen overnight. But if you don’t have a job, and especially if you have a severance package, or are in an industry where a layoff qualifies you for some sort of funding for retraining, that’s a kite string you can grab and run with.

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