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I read a book last week by Oliver James called Affluenza which argues that the increase in malaise in modern society is due to all of us striving to keep up with the Jones’ by wanting a bigger house, a better car, that Mulberry handbag or Omega watch…
Rather than focus on our basic needs we are conditioned by the media, the government, and the education system to focus on our wants. The book argues that emotional distress (mental illness/depression) is the result of all us wanting more and never being entirely satisfied with our lot. We overstretch ourselves and borrow on credit trapping us into a life long competition to earn more and keep up.
The book argues not everyone who is “successful” is infected with the “virus” – if you are motivated by intrinsic values and the trappings of wealth and success are a by-product (rather than the end goal) then you will not suffer. It is only those who are driven by the desire to keep up with everyone else who is seen as suffering from Affluenza.
It is a compelling read that did get me questioning about my own basic needs and my wants. It got me thinking about prospects and opportunities and what we all look for in our careers. With the argument flipped on its head surely it is ok to aspire to have a job that meets more than our basic needs? In terms of our careers should we not strive to meet our wants and set the bar higher for ourselves?
If you are a newly qualified solicitor to 5 years PQE it is likely that you are still suffering from the hangover of paying for university, law school and covering your bills etc. whilst you train on a pretty low salary. Having dedicated several years to study and networking you enter the career ladder hoping for more than your basic needs being met. I am not talking here about material considerations but we all want to feel valued in the work place, have the opportunity to progress and further challenge ourselves, and to keep learning no matter what stage in our careers we are at. Settling for a role that meets your needs rather than your wants might be something you do during times of recession however now markets are starting to pick up there is evidence that the negotiating power is shifting again and employees are now in a stronger position to manoeuvre themselves into a role with better prospects with their current firm or look to explore the external market.
As a legal recruitment consultant I speak daily to people who are dissatisfied with their current lot and who are suffering from jobfluenza. More often than not it is not salary and package that people are complaining about but a lack of prospects and feeling undervalued. For many of those in employment basic needs are met, but they rightly aspire to more.
My advice would be do not settle for a role that you are unhappy in. Value your skills and experience and seek for your current employer to open doors for you to widen your horizons. The alternative is to explore the external market. There is a big wide world out there and life is too short to stay in a job that doesn’t make you happy. After all we all want a want a bigger house, a better car, that Mulberry handbag or Omega watch…just as long as that is not all that drives us we should be ok!
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