Careers

Amy Poehler says to treat your career like a bad boyfriend—and it may be the ultimate millennial advice

Amy Poehler during the 'Tina & Amy's Dope Squad' sketch on Saturday Night Live.
NBC | Getty Images
Amy Poehler during the 'Tina & Amy's Dope Squad' sketch on Saturday Night Live.

Actor Amy Poehler of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and "Parks and Recreation" believes she has found the solution to your love and career woes: ambivalence.

Her counter-intuitive advice may be exactly what millennials need to hear.

In her book "Yes, Please," the comedian argues that too often, people's careers will leave them feeling mistreated and unfulfilled just like a romantic relationship can.

Your career won't take care of you. It won't call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car. Your career will blow you off if you call it too much. It's never going to leave its wife. Your career is f------ other people and everyone knows but you. Your career will never marry you.

Poehler makes a sharp distinction between career and passion. She describes creative passion as "the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world" and describes a career as "something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren't."

She says you should not chase your career because "you will rarely feel done or complete or even successful." You should, however, always chase your passion.

Millennials tend to agree with this line of thinking. One study shows that over 50 percent of millennials would take a pay cut in order to find work that aligns with their values and 94 percent of millennials say they want to use their skills for good.

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In order to escape the often unhealthy relationship that people have with their jobs, Poehler suggests you "treat your career like a bad boyfriend." In other words, stop chasing your current career and get it to pursue you. If this doesn't work, find a new career.

Poehler argues that trying not to care about your career goals may actually increase your chances of achieving what you want. "Pretending to not want something can work," she says. "Your career will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you."

Taking a step back from work is something millennials are notoriously bad at. Millennials are often characterized by researchers as "workaholics" because they are the most likely to forfeit vacation days and obsess over work more often than their Gen X and Baby Boomer colleagues.

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If a strategy of stepping back does not help you get closer to your goals, Poehler suggests you cut and run. "If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else," she writes.

This is where Poehler's advice most fits the millennial mold. Harvard Business review reports that six in 10 millennials say they are open to different job opportunities, the highest percentage among all generations in the workplace.

Of course, her metaphor has its limits. You do not need a relationship to survive the same way you need a job, and earnings, to survive. Breaking up with one job before you have another lined up can have real, and often damaging, effects.

But the beauty of Poehler's argument is that it can mean something different for everyone. Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation in American history. Giving all millennials the same standard advice to go to school, become professionals, buy houses and retire at 65 simply doesn't make sense.

Poehler's advice provides space for individuals to make the career and life decisions that will ultimately make them most fulfilled, and what is more millennial than that?

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