Kevin Chesters: The greatest gift this Christmas is choice - or else learn to love your job

Kevin Chesters is the incoming partner/CSO of The Harbour Collective and former chief strategy officer of Ogilvy UK.

The greatest gift this Christmas is choice

It’s (almost) Christmas time, so I’ve been thinking about gifts. I’ve been thinking in particular about a specific gift that most of us are lucky enough to have in our lives: the gift of choice. Especially when it comes to the choice of what we all do for a living, and who we choose to do it for.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people, especially ad agency folks, spend a disproportionate amount of time moaning about their jobs. Moaning about their agency, moaning about their holding company, moaning about their clients, moaning about their boss, moaning about their boss’s boss.

Yet most of these people tend to stay in the job that they are in, year after year, moaning away. Weird, huh? Why don’t they get up and leave if they dislike it so much?

For starters, I have a theory is that all jobs are a mild form of Stockholm Syndrome. If you’re not familiar with the concept it is the process whereby hostages can fall in love with their jailors (named after the 1973 Norrmalmstrog bank robbery.) It’s curious to me how many people tend to spend most of their time moaning but then stay put in the job they consistently moan about as if they’re a hostage within their employment situation.

The second explanation comes in the form of the biggest myth that exists when it comes to jobs; the illusion of security. People can often stay because of their need for ‘security’ in terms of paying their rent or mortgage or for childcare arrangements etc, but the safety net they’re relying on is largely a myth. When it comes down to it companies will be as loyal to you as Darth Vader was to his Admirals. Most people are on one-to-three months’ notice and if you’ve been in your job for less than two years then the company can give you the heave-ho with no financial obligation to provide severance. You might think you are secure but you’re really not. So, in reality, there really is nothing properly holding you back from pursuing the job of your dreams.

Sorry to say it but I have precisely zero sympathy with most people who moan about their current job because there is pretty much nothing stopping them from jacking it in and getting the job they want (beyond their own inertia or cowardice).

Literally billions of people on Earth don’t have the gift of choice. But by virtue of our circumstances, education and experience pretty much everyone reading this does. So why don’t we use it? Once you forget the illusion of security and realise that you can do whatever you want, then there is no reason to keep moaning about your job if you don’t like it.

Stop moaning about your job and get a new job. You have the gift of choice. Stop carping in the cafeteria about your company and try to change it. If you can’t, get out. Stop slagging off your boss and replace them with a new one. Your inertia is a tacit endorsement of them in the eyes of your colleagues (who probably also want to get out as much as you and probably think you’re loving it.)

I think everyone should make a December resolution (as we know from research that four out of five January ones fail so let’s bin those off) to make 2020 the year you get the job that you want and think you deserve. I’m especially talking to those people who are ending 2019 disliking their current job as much as they did at the start of the year.

Let’s make next year the year that you work where you want to work, how you want to work and for whom you want to work. My Uncle John would always tell me (I know he stole the quote) that if you found a job that you love doing then you’d never have to “work another day in your life”. It’s so true. Let’s replace moaning with action in 2020.

I’d urge you to think about that thing that you’ve wanted to do for ages. And then go do it. Switch industries or disciplines? Do it. Freelancing? Do it. Set up your own business? Do it. Do you want a boss who you respect rather than pity or dislike? Then you know what to do.

Or stop moaning. It’s your choice.

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