Staying employable robs your life of meaning

Written on 12.10.2023

Staying employable robs your life of meaning

The chase of employability erodes self-worth, sense of meaning and having a purpose in live. We probably should stop chasing it.

At the onset of my final year of university, I had an image of my future working in a buzzing startup.

I was a model student — good grades, diverse internships, even a touch of entrepreneurship, having started my own business. The startup ecosystem was thriving; venture capital was abundant and jobs plenty. I was poised perfectly on the springboard of employability, ready to dive into the sea of career opportunities and the startup live.

Bulls***.

The tide turned. Interest rates spiked, venture capital funds dried, and finding a job in a startup felt like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Even with my so-employable resume, the roles I desired remained elusive. Of course, I ended up opting for another internship.

Reflecting back, it hits me: in my stupid pursuit to be the jack-of-all-trades, I became the master of none.

Despite ticking off all the ‘employability’ boxes — good grades, diverse skills, entrepreneurship, rational career steps, no gaps in my curriculum — I am left grappling with a void. I am a generalist, armed with a well-rounded skill set but no real expertise. I am highly employable but feel oddly lost. And I am an intern again.

The sad irony is that I have no idea who I am, what I truly excel at, or what I genuinely want to do. In the race to remain employable, I lost touch with what makes my work meaningful.

I have become a paradox: an empty vessel of employability.

Employability is the enemy of a purposeful live

Like a hamster endlessly spinning on a wheel, many of us find ourselves locked in a relentless pursuit of employability.

We pile on degrees, acquire skills, bounce from one internship to another, all in the hopes of staying one step ahead in the job market. Yet, while these efforts might keep us ‘employable’, they never leave us fulfilled.

The reality is that this chase for relevance gradually erodes our sense of self and purpose, leading to a life without meaning.

We build an identity around being a desirable employee, while our true passions and interests get lost.

The paradox is profound: we become perfectly primed for a job market that is constantly in change, and in the process, we lose touch with who we are and what we value. The journey to stay employable might ensure a paycheque, but it robs our lives of its true essence — purpose and meaning.

Chasing Employability is the new go-to career path

In the modern world, employability has become the golden ticket, the holy grail, the key to survival in an increasingly turbulent job market.

The rise of the gig economy, automation, and rapid technological changes have disrupted traditional career paths, creating an environment where change is the only constant. This state of flux propels a ceaseless quest to remain employable.

In this paradigm, employability is more than just landing a job.

It’s about staying marketable in a landscape where the sands are constantly shifting. It’s about having an arsenal of relevant skills, a broad knowledge base, an entrepreneurial mindset, and the ability to adapt and innovate.

This chase is often framed as the secret to professional success.

You’re led to believe that if you can stay ahead of the curve, if you can be that all-rounder who fits into every mould, you’ll be bulletproof, immune to the whims of an unpredictable world.

But this modern employment model — with its glorification of adaptability and continuous learning — breeds a unique kind of pressure.

We’re always playing catch-up, always trying to predict the next big skill, the next industry trend. And while this might make us professionally resilient, it leaves little room for personal fulfilment and purpose.

In the quest for employability, we’re at risk of becoming professional chameleons, forever changing and adapting, at the cost of our authentic selves.

The High Cost of Employability

The toll of perpetually striving for employability goes far beyond stress and anxiety.

This relentless chase can lead to burnout, a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion characterized by cynicism, detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness.

We’re not machines that can be constantly upgraded and updated, but human beings with limits and needs.

Constantly trying to fit into different moulds also erodes our sense of self-worth.

We start to see our value as individuals as synonymous with our professional desirability. This creates a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness, as our identities become a reflection of market trends rather than our true selves.

The constant striving for employability is not just a professional challenge; it’s an existential one.

We’re trading our peace of mind, our authenticity, and our personal fulfillment for the sake of job security. And in the process, we’re losing sight of what truly brings meaning and purpose to our lives.

The need for re-evaluating priorities

The truth is, in the grand narrative of life, employability is just one aspect.

It doesn’t have to be the benchmark against which we measure our worth or our success.

What if we started valuing our uniqueness, our passions, our capacity for personal growth and meaningful relationships? What if we placed the same premium on mental peace and emotional well-being as we do on employability?

Imagine a life where success is not strictly defined by professional milestones, but by personal fulfillment and joy. A life where you’re not constantly re-inventing yourself to fit into various moulds, but nurturing your true self.

A life where you’re not just accumulating skills, but experiences and memories.

Consider prioritising personal growth over professional adaptability. Instead of being an all-rounder at work, strive to be a well-rounded person. Engage in pursuits that ignite your passion and stimulate your mind. Cultivate meaningful relationships that enrich your life. Take the time to nurture your mental and emotional health.

And dare to not give a sh** about your curriculum from time to time.

I think we need to redefine success. Let’s not let it hinge solely on our ability to stay employed. Success can also be a life lived authentically, brimming with joy, purpose, and fulfilment.

It’s time we look beyond employability and give ourselves permission to live meaningful lives that resonate with our true selves.

It’s time we look beyond employability and give ourselves permission to live meaningful lives that resonate with our true selves.

Final Thoughts

Life is too short and sweet for the relentless pursuit of employability.

Dare to redefine success. Discover your purpose. Seek out meaning. Above all, create a life that is not just about surviving in the job market, but about thriving as your authentic self.

Because a life well-lived, brimming with passion, purpose and personal growth, is the ultimate measure of success.

Let me know what you think.