“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege, a sign of socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and co-sign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can bestow DWYL as career advice upon those covetous of her success.
If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves, what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.
Yeah, my inner life today is no richer than it was when I worked at Steak ‘n Shake.
I don’t think we should measure the value of a person’s professional life by whether they have esteemed or lucrative work. The best formulation of professional value I’ve come across is from Tim O’Reilly: “Do things that need doing.”
Stocking shelves? Needs doing. Serving food? Needs doing. Collecting garbage? Needs doing. Editing wikipedia pages? Needs doing. Figuring out how to maximize fees on checking accounts? Doesn’t need doing. Engaging trolls on the Internet? Doesn’t need doing. Volunteering at animal shelters? Needs doing.
Ultimately, for me at least, the measure of work’s value is not expressed best by money or love. The question is whether something that needs to be done is getting done.