Loving your work

This post was co-written by Kristen Abell, Monica Fochtman and Becca Fick after a lengthy Twitter conversation topic. You might find it cross-posted on their blogs, too.

Lately, we have been noticing several folks tweeting things about “reasons I love my job.” It made us think – are we setting up the expectation that you need to love your job to be good at it? Why can’t we say we enjoy it or like it or find meaning from it and that be enough? It all comes down to false expectations of what we should get from work and what we owe to it as a result. It seems like a very unhealthy relationship. Tim threw the initial question out on Twitter, and a conversation has now bloomed into a blog post.

When/Why did we start treating work as something that could be loved? And is this only something that’s happening online? We wonder whether this professed “love” has more to do with how someone looks online, their personal brand, than their true feelings about work. Maybe some people feel like they have to profess their love for their job in order to be taken seriously as a student affairs professional – as if they have to prove their dedication to the job and to the field.

It’s not a person, it can’t love us back. Why do we put so much into something, and what do we get back from it? This can set people up for failure and/or heartbreak. No job will LOVE you back. You can get fulfillment from it, and you can make an impact, but those do not equal love. It seems that some of us, as higher education professionals, have unrealistic expectations about how our employers and institutions will receive our efforts, our “love” for them. We seem to hear, “Love your job! Be passionate. If you do this, then all your needs will be fulfilled and you will be rewarded.” In reality, a job is a job. Yes, some can be more fulfilling than others, but it won’t love you back.

When you treat work as work, you tend to be a better self-advocate when it comes to promotions, time out of the office, saying no, etc. You also tend to take less of that home with you, knowing it will be there when you go back tomorrow. Are newer professionals even taught this? And who do we look to for our models?

When you are all student affairs all the time, you do a disservice to yourself, to your friends and family and to your students. That’s right – we said your students. Do you think they care if you were thinking about them at 2 a.m. if you can’t help them now because you’re completely exhausted and burned out?

So what do you think about “loving” your job – is it all it’s cracked up to be?


11 thoughts on “Loving your work

  1. I don’t think the problem is as much with loving or not loving your job, but more so the shaming of those who don’t claim to “love” their job. You can be a fabulous employee and approach your job with professionalism without being in love with it. For me, love is a higher order emotion I reserve for close friends and family. I am a dedicated professional but love doesn’t enter the equation.

    • Agreed, Chris. In all of our discussions leading up to our post, this was the common theme: the shaming of those who do not claim to love their job. This post was hopefully a start of a discussion and to let folks know that it is OK to not “love” your job so long as you do it well.

  2. What Chris said. I love my wife. I love my family. I don’t need to love my job to do it well. I need to be good at my job to do it well.

    The authors nailed it here: “In reality, a job is a job. Yes, some can be more fulfilling than others, but it won’t love you back.”

    I’d go so far as to say that you shouldn’t LOVE your students. That’s just unhealthy because when it comes time to being asked by a student to support them by attending an event versus taking your family or your partner out for dinner/date/time alone – you then feel as though you are letting one of the two down and THAT is something that should not happen in a healthy situation.

    • Joe – the last paragraph especially resonates with me. I have been on both sides of this. My relationship, well-being, and how well I do my job are better off when I have a realistic relationship with my students. I get close with many of them. We bond, they are invited to my home, and many have met my daughter. That, however, is not to be confused with love according to my definition which is reserved for my wife, daughter, family, and closest friends. The distinction is important.

      • Tim, It is also important to set that boundary and understanding with the students. We tend to get invested in our students (especially at a four-year where you know you will most likely see them for the next four years) and the lines get blurry between being a friend and being a coach and being an employee doing their job.

    • I think it’s also true that we need to establish those boundaries with our colleagues about how we work with students. It has not been uncommon for a colleague to make a comment about how I’m not devoted enough to students when I say I’m leaving to do something with my family. Setting those boundaries with them also makes sure that they can support and reinforce those expectations with students instead of countermanding them.

      • Great point Kristen. I will also add to this the notion of work friends. I have had them everywhere I go, but pressure to hang out after hours when colleagues are gathering can be tough. Sometimes we just want/need to disconnect and be with our families.

  3. I feel kinda icky now saying I love my job. I actually wrote a blog post about it that I love it. I suppose to each their own on how we see our jobs. We call come with different motivations and that’s okay. The day I see my job as just a job is probably when I need to move on.Again, this is just me, so please don’t take it as I’m shaming anyone else. Just like I don’t think I should be shamed for saying I love my job as well. Do i set my boundaries with my work and students so I have a good family and personal life? Absolutely.

    • Joe – very fair points! The intent for me was more about the shaming into loving your job and was not meant to shame those who feel they legitimately do. It also all comes down to each person’s definition of the word “love”. I really appreciate your weighing in on this.

  4. Tim – thanks:) I agree with the post and the sentiment behind it. I probably feel a greater sense of attachment to my work and the students because of my history with UCSB. I was a student here and so I’ve come to develop relationships with co-workers that go beyond the workplace environment. The Filipino-American student community is a group I deeply care about just because I do feel a sense of connection with them. Some of them call me “tito” (uncle) and they do come to me for advice beyond academics.

    I do think that, and I’ve seen this personally, there are colleagues who go above and beyond what their work responsibilities are, to a point of being unhealthy. Basically, their work becomes their life, they own the issues and problems of their colleagues/students, to a point where they lose themselves in the process – they start to sacrifice their personal and social lives because of the sense of “hero mentality”.


  5. “Do you think they care if you were thinking about them at 2 a.m. if you can’t help them now because you’re completely exhausted and burned out?” This is a great line for anyone in education and just shared with my wife the teacher who we had this same exact conversation last night. And this one by Chris is great as well “shaming of those who don’t claim to “love” their job.” And to Tim’s point “Sometimes we just want/need to disconnect and be with our families.” is interesting because sometimes we do staff development and team dynamics that end up as detrimental to the team because rather than being individuals with lives the team may become too overly attached in unhealthy ways, which I have certainly seen among residence life staff from student to grad to pro levels. Thank you all for sharing this.

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