Embracing the Facade

How to breakthrough when your heart is not in it

I’ve spent some time in 2024 talking to people who have recently been laid off or were otherwise struggling to find a new job. Of course, every human is different, but it’s rare to find anyone in either situation to be full of hope.

One conversation with someone who has been looking for a new job for a long time was especially despondent, beyond the specific state of affairs. He was looking athwart his entire career, which was often filled with jobs that he didn’t particularly love, that ultimately led to this very moment.

I wasn’t even enjoying the journey, and whatever was it for? 

This sentiment is very comment at moments like this - I certainly felt it the last time I was laid off. But I believe we’re more likely to feel this way throughout our careers, even when we’re employed and even if that job is meaningful to us.

There is a steady thrum of uneasiness about the precarious state of employment. No one feels executives in charge of livelihoods have learned the hard-earned lessons about overestimating growth. And stories abound of well-liked and well-connected people spending a long time finding their next job.

This post, however, is not about tips and tricks for finding a job. This is about the mentality I think you need to have to make that search less excruciating.

You need the facade.

Let’s assume your career path took you further away from what you dreamt you would be doing as an adult. It’s the common assumption. And you’re either still employed in a job you don’t love or looking to get hired again with a strong track record in that field. And let’s say, you need to meet your material needs that makes a curveball switch to your dream profession unlikely.

I get that the previous paragraph is depressing and despairing. And the advice I’m about to give may feel corrosive or cheap. But it’s helped me in difficult times and it may help you too.

The search for the next job - or the decision to take your earned experience and start a consultancy or business around it - is and will be interminable if you don’t commit to doing it.

The reality you need to create and believe for yourself and the facade you must project is that this is what you want to do. You let that into your mind and soul and it becomes a learned habit and, eventually, something you embrace.

Of course, if you want to pursue your passion (though see my note below) and are committed to making it happen, disregard the above. But if you can’t commit to dropping everything to do what you love, you must commit to doing what you can.

Spending your days worrying about the state of affairs, getting despondent about filling out applications for jobs you say you don’t even want, wondering where it all went wrong; these are mind killers.

I’m not requesting you adopt a grindset mentality or wake up every day in a state of delusion or delirium. But if you’re fighting your will to do the things necessary to break through - which is extremely hard - you won’t break through and you’ll be even more angry or despondent.

You must create this facade that you are passionate about finding a job in the field that is most likely to hire.

Life’s unfair bargain.

If it feels like you have to choose between your passion and your competency (or, put another way, the career path you life has taken), it’s because it’s mostly true. Capitalistic, managerial society slots people into roles they can do to move the machine forward. But what exactly is passion?

The book So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport has some interesting things to say about this. He interviewed some people who left their less-than-fulfilling jobs to pursue their passions, even though they had little experience with that pursuit. These people really struggled because they didn’t have the experience or the networks or the competencies, frankly, to excel in those fields.

Cal also interviewed people who had achieved success in jobs they absolutely loved. He often found that those people did not find a career in their passion areas, but rather found passion in their careers. He found that those people found something they excelled at, then found that success intoxicating, and then continued to focus on doing what they loved within that field.

I am not one to diminish passion, but my point is this. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing and you’re not excelling at that field, you absolutely should look to do something else. But instead of chasing a lifelong passion from scratch, look towards an adjacent field of your existing career path, and see if that unlocks something better.