Career justification has become an ongoing theme in my life. In 2015 and 2016, I worked as cabin crew. While the job wasn’t well paid, it did make me happy. Quite regularly, passive aggressive family members would refer to ‘trolley dollies’ as being ‘thick.’
NB, I once resuscitated someone during taxi. Just saying…
I decided to put my undergraduate degree to good use by pursuing a postgraduate degree in physician associate studies. From around three weeks in, I loathed the course. It couldn’t have been clearer that we were a rapid and cost-friendly (ney cheap) stopgap for the GP and junior doctor crisis. We were to remain unregulated and with Brexit looming over us I suspect that will continue.
A year into the degree I began realising that my continuation was based on pleasing others. I didn’t want to disappoint people by returning to the skies. Nobody really acknowledged working as a freelance copywriter in an even remotely serious manner. It was seen as a hobby that I lucked out with by making money.
And so, against my better judgement, I persisted. I grew thinner, felt sadder, and eventually crumbled. I was within inches of the finish line and in the midst of a very dark tunnel with no reassuring light at the end.
The need to justify my career keeps inching back toward me. Although I love working as a freelance copywriter, I would like to do something else one day. But until someday comes, this is what I am doing and I like to take it seriously.
As freelancers, we rarely are taken seriously. Okay, so we take each other seriously and our clients afford us the same respect. But to the external world, we’re lucky to work from home, we have oodles of free time that they can cash in on, and we have no reason to feel pressure. When career justification syndrome kicks in, all that can feel pretty naff.
So for today’s post, I’m going to explore why you should never feel the need to justify your career to someone. I hope it saves your sanity if you encounter the same daily frustrations that I meet.
It isn’t their career
Let’s say your Mum is a lawyer. Or your partner is a doctor. Maybe your father was an accountant. One or all three feel as though you should fall into a similar role, because certain careers form a magic circle that gives the people connected to you some bragging rights.
Quite simply, these people are not extensions of you nor are you an extension of them. It’s okay that the thought of legislation, needy patients, and tax returns make you want to gag. They can do them and you can do you. If you’re not trying to coerce them into shaping their day so it feels comfortable with your idea of enjoyment, they don’t get to do the same.
You’re not harming anyone (I hope)
Okay, so if you’re dealing drugs out of the back of a clapped out white BMW to 10 year olds, yes you are hurting someone and you may need to adjust your moral compass.
Otherwise, whether you photograph waves for a living or you write content (like me), you’re not hurting anybody. You’re making a contribution to the economy and in some way, your efforts spark joy (but maybe not to Marie Kondo, she seems kind of fussy).
One argument you may face here is that your job isn’t doing a great deal of social good either. Because when you can successfully claim you’re not doing any social harms, it’s easy for your opponent to state that you could be doing something more for society.
Rest assured, your career is not a race to the bottom in terms of day-to-day martyrdom. The idea that working as a freelance copywriter means I’m not benefiting society with each breath came from my partner. I highlighted various careers in which he could be doing more social good too. Just like me, you’re not martyring yourself at the altar of daily toil in exchange for possibly revitalising someone else’s existence. Trust me when I say you make a contribution in one way or another.
Looking back and seeing you danced to someone else’s tune feels like a waste of time
When you direct your career, your hobbies, or any other significant element of your being according to someone else’s desire, it’s time wasted. In the long term, it’s likely to feel virtually impossible trying to stay in a career someone else wants. Their validation won’t make your day-to-day life feel any more pleasant.
After doing this for 18 months, I feel a sense of frustration with how I could have made progress elsewhere. Pursuing a degree I didn’t feel passionate about resulted in lost clients, lost working hours, and missed opportunities. Of course, there’s no guarantee that using the time as I wanted would have resulted in a significantly different outcome. But I would still have the satisfaction of knowing I tried.
So if you’re facing continuous career justification in the face of those who should support you, stand your ground. The more you do the closer you come to either receiving their acceptance or enjoying the peace that comes with them closing their mouths.