We enter the workforce bright-eyed, ready to give it our all. But there’s a bitter truth they don’t teach in school: your job will eventually treat you like shit. There’s no two ways about it.
No matter how earnestly you devote yourself or how loudly you profess your loyalty, work is fundamentally incapable of caring. It’s a one-way romance — and you’re the only one anxiously awaiting calls after hours. Before you rearrange your life around a job, know that it’s not reciprocal. Your emotional investment will never be returned.
We’re raised on the myth of the One True Career Path. Commit, climb, and conquer, and you shall be rewarded — with stability, growth, and that proverbial gold watch upon retirement. But let’s call it what it is: a beautifully packaged fantasy, a well-oiled narrative spun by companies that demand a loyalty they seldom return.
The fantasy tells us that our worth is directly proportional to our productivity, our rank, and our compliance with the corporate creed. We’re led to believe that if we just pour enough of ourselves into our work, if we make it our first love, our raison d’être, we’ll be met with fulfilment, security, and recognition.
We’ve been duped into believing that pouring our hearts and souls into our jobs is the golden ticket to the good life. This dead horse has been flogged so effectively that many of us feel guilty for not being emotionally all in all the time. The relentless expectation to be emotionally invested in our work has led to a culture of burnout, stress, and a pervasive sense of never being enough. We’ve been so entangled in the emotional fabric of our professional lives that the lines between work and personal identity have blurred, often to our detriment.
When we dare to spotlight the glaring imbalance of care in the workplace, we’re swiftly branded as lazy by a chorus of older (home-owning) critics. They label younger generations as slackers for not chaining themselves to their desks. It’s a stale, regurgitated myth brandished by those who confuse a quest for a meaningful life with an absence of dedication.
But let’s call this out for what it is: a dangerous and unsustainable fallacy. Brands and companies are not capable of love or loyalty, no matter how they pitch themselves and their “culture”. They are entities with bottom lines and shareholder interests.
The glorification of overwork? That’s been nothing short of a con job, a relentless grift selling us the lie that our self-worth is directly proportional to our productivity. It’s a toxic culture crafted to squeeze every ounce of energy out of us, leaving us drained, disillusioned, and questioning our own value.
Your tireless dedication might be applauded at Friday arvo drinks (which aren’t free, they’re factored into your paycheck) your overworking might be romanticised, but at the end of the day, if numbers need to be crunched and cuts need to be made, your years of devotion will become just another red mark in a ledger.
The reality is that your job won’t comfort you when you’re ill, it won’t celebrate your personal milestones, and it certainly won’t be there for you in the quiet twilight of your life. Your job doesn’t give a flying fuck. It’s a transactional relationship, albeit one that takes up a significant chunk of your waking hours. No matter how much you care, and no matter how much of yourself you invest, work will not — ever — love you back. This isn’t about dodging hard work; it’s about recognising our reality and actively dismantling the archaic belief that personal worth is measured by professional achievement.
Younger workers are navigating an economic maze far more complex and unstable than anything faced by previous generations. We’re earning less, paying more, and shamed for doing anything with our money, whether it’s spending it or saving it.
It’s okay not to feel passionate about every aspect of your job. It’s okay to clock out mentally and emotionally when the day is done. Your emotional energy is precious; it’s time to be stingy. The most fulfilling and stable relationship you can have is with yourself, not with a line item on your LinkedIn profile.
A job, while important, should be just one facet of a rich and varied existence. Labelling this mindset as laziness is not only misguided but dismissive of a well-rounded life that values mental well-being, personal development, and passions pursued beyond the rigidity of the traditional workday.
The world has changed, the economy has changed, and the essence of work has changed. But expectations of all-consuming loyalty remain fossilised in a bygone era. As new generations enter an ever-more unstable job landscape, one truth crystalises: career devotion is over. The notion that a job alone provides meaning just doesn’t resonate in today’s world. Purpose springs from within — from self-knowledge and mindfully choosing how to spend our limited time.
Force your work to fit your existence, not the other way around. Set boundaries so no job can encroach beyond its rightful place. Give your passion, but give it sparingly. This isn’t indolence. It’s a forward-thinking, enlightened approach to what a truly fulfilling life should encompass.
Because companies will come and go. Technologies will rise and fall. Your job won’t last forever. You only get one life — make sure you’re the one writing its narrative.