Courtesy of Layna Lapikas

In 2005, Steve Jobs bestowed upon the Stanford Class of 2005 a piece of advice: “Find what you love … And love what you do.” This piece of advice has been widely spread and accepted. However, it remains a bit controversial. Some say it is not great advice for the up-and-coming college-educated workforce as circumstances have changed plenty since 2005, leading current graduates to consider other pathways. Although encouraging graduates to find a career they love is not the worst graduation advice, it should be improved by emphasizing loving life beyond the four walls of the workplace. 

In many cases, loving one’s work is a luxury that only a few can afford. Although it is the ideal goal, it is impractical since not all of them offer a livable wage. The economy has expanded, from which corporations have profited. Workers are experiencing a “productivity-pay gap,” a trend that highlights how wages have not increased in proportion to the economy’s expansion. Many white-collar roles are observing a trend of fewer job postings, slower hiring and fear of layoffs. 

Loving a job cannot be a singular priority in one’s job search because finding a way to pay for basic needs has to come first. It is an idealistic way of thinking for those who have a plethora of opportunities and doors open to them. The majority of the working class does not have a choice in the kinds of jobs they work, specifically for those who need to financially support their families and their households. 

It is important for those in the workplace to reevaluate what it is they center in their life. Companies’ goals are to maximize their profits, and their employees are just a means to an end. Companies only want to garner respect and love to make sure their employees contribute more of their time and hard work to that company. In an opinion piece published by CNN, Carolyn Chen, an associate Ethics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, writes, “No other social institution will work so hard to earn your love as your workplace,” and that’s because it gives them carte blanche to take advantage of employees. Loving a job might just be what pushes someone to unfairly give more of their time and energy when the company does not value them similarly. 

About half of employed Americans derive their sense of identity from their job. The corporations many are forming their identity around do not value them beyond their skill set. Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jeffery Pfeffer suggests that a future-oriented mindset means people should not expect companies to be firmly bound by moral norms. Loving one’s work creates the impression that work loves or needs them back, creating an unhealthy relationship between the employer and employee that disadvantages the employee alone.

This perspective shift of decentering one’s career probably stems from the technological boom experienced within the past few decades. Attitudes of younger generations toward the place work takes in a person’s life has led to the creation of a new slogan: “working to live.” Generation Z has been able to share and spread their experiences via social media, resulting in a widely accepted ideology that centering life around work, even if one loves it, is not healthy or beneficial. 

Work has become a means to an end for many of the Gen Z workforce. Things like travel, hobbies and other experiences outside of work have become more important than one’s career. A work-life balance and maintaining mental and physical health are important to Gen Z, more so than loving the work they do. 

Over the last century, the workplace has experienced profound transformations from the inception of the eight-hour workday, protections from discrimination, workplace safety and job security. These advancements have already created a safer and more stable working environment, with Gen Z creating an even bigger shift. From a work-centered mindset to prioritizing loving life outside of work, their priorities are too different for a speech made in 2005 to comprehend. Doing what one loves is not always practical, but finding a job that can provide stability and help individuals pursue what they love outside of the workplace is.