How to Work a Job That's Not Your Passion, From an Ex-Goldman Sachs Banker: Get ‘Comfortable With Being a Good-Enough Employee'

Courtesy Lindsay MacMillan

Lindsay MacMillan decided she'd be an author early in life. "I wrote my first short story that I asked to read to the class for Halloween in first grade," she says. After high school, she attended Dartmouth College where she majored in economics and creative writing, all the while teaching herself about the business of authorship.

As she figured out her path as a writer, MacMillan decided to get a more practical job that "could set me up to take more of a risk in the future," she says. She went into investment banking at Goldman Sachs and saved up half of her income to prepare for the day she would make the leap into full-time writing.

She wrote two more books during her time at the company, finally landing a deal in 2021. Her debut novel, "The Heart of the Deal," was published in June.

MacMillan recognizes her good fortune in being able to make a six-figure income at one of the most renowned investment banking firms in the world. Still, it wasn't her dream job. "I certainly had days and moments where I would just feel a bit resentful and a bit like all I wanted to be doing was writing," she says.

She's not alone ― 50% of workers say they dislike their jobs, according to an August 2021 Zippia survey of 1,000 workers across the U.S.

Here's how the now Michigan-based 28-year-old made the most of those years at Goldman, even as she worked toward her dream.

Switching to a schedule that was 'nine to seven'

MacMillan recognized quickly that the investment banking side of the business was not for her. She worked in it for two years, but had "zero control over my schedule," she says, adding that that "did not work for me mental-health wise or writing wise."

Instead, she switched to working on the brand and marketing side. That schedule was closer to "nine to seven and then checking in on the weekends but not coming into the office," she says, conducive to waking up in the morning and writing for a few hours before going into work.

Going in every day she would feel that, "I'm going to spend 10 or 12 hours here and it might not be super connected with my soul, but I've already made good progress today."

'Bringing a bit of this rebel, joyful energy' to the job

MacMillan also found ways to make the days a bit more fun in "an environment where you can very easily be kind of sleepwalking, zombie, cold prickly robot," she says.

One way she did that was through what she called "joy emails." These were Friday newsletters that began amongst friends in the office and ballooned to hundreds of people in offices around the world. "I would share little bits of good news or random happy things from colleagues," she says.

"So while I was not really that excited about the work itself," she says, "I would really get energized by just the moments of human connection or feeling like I was bringing a bit of this rebel, joyful energy" from doing those kinds of activities.

Getting comfortable 'being a good-enough employee'

In the process of balancing these two careers, MacMillan discovered that throwing herself 100% into a demanding day-job and a demanding dream job can lead to burnout. "I kind of had to go through this exercise of, 'stop being such a perfectionist and an overachiever'" in everything, she says.

The writing was her priority, so "I got comfortable with being a good-enough employee" at Goldman. Sometimes that meant leaving the office earlier than other people, for example, but she knew that time would be better spent elsewhere.

MacMillan left her job in March 2022 to focus full time on her writing and promoting "The Heart of the Deal." At the moment, "the hours are probably no better than when I worked at Goldman," she says. "But when it's aligned with something that is in your soul, you just have so much more energy."

Check out:

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