I’m not talking about whether you’re doing what you’re most passionate about.
Let’s not get into that.
I’m talking about whether you feel like you’re doing meaningful work.
Do you find fulfillment in what you do, regardless of what your job actually involves – customer service, admin, engineering, design…? Do you feel like your work has a useful purpose or that it’s making a difference?
Chatting to some of my high school girlfriends, it’s evident (I don’t know if they could all say their job is their passion – I should ask them) their chosen fields are uber rewarding. Medicine. Osteopathy. Audiology. (Oh yes, and law – which if I didn’t have such a love for writing I guess I would have pursued – it is, at least here, the default for smart high schoolers who don’t go into the technical/scientific degrees.)
All crazy important, worthy, noble jobs, helping their fellow humans, huge responsibilities. (Handily, also all very lucrative, which is a bonus; they do have higher education requirements, and high student loan repayments to match their higher starting salaries…but they’ll still make more than me in the long run.)
Sometimes I can’t help but feel inferior, as the least educated and, I guess, the least ‘professional’ of all. Whenever I mention how insanely amazing what they do is, though, they’re always quick to praise me, my creativity, the fact that I’m less about book learning and more about real knowledge (ha). Bless.
While I may not do anything particularly noble on a daily basis – I’m hardly serving the greater good of humanity – I create something new, every day. Stories people read, content they engage with. And maybe I do make a small difference for some of these inspiring and deserving people and companies.
While I can’t really say the same of previous jobs I did before getting into my current field, they definitely had their moments.
Example: I used to hate answering the phones at work. You just never knew what to expect. But when it wasn’t some crank, and when I could actually help the caller with what they were after – that felt really good. I sincerely like helping people, and if they’re grateful for it, that’s just the icing.
At another job, my general office admin tasks were, in all honesty, rather dull. But in transcribing and typing out legal documents, I took real pride in my work, getting used to each consultant’s style, correcting any grammatical errors, doing my best to be a star support person.
I don’t know if that’s quite the same thing as finding meaning in my work per se, but it certainly lifted the job above just something I did to get by.
What does your job mean to you?
Yep, helping people. Whether it is to research something that will directly help to save their lives, educating them about what they can do to save themselves, or simply helping a grad student with something in their PhD (which will save lives), I love what I do. That is mainly why it is my passion, actually! I can’t say that I would do anything as long as it helped people, but I definitely wouldn’t take a job unless that was an important part of it. There is a lot of research done simply for research’s sake, and while that is important and useful to advance science, I wouldn’t find much meaning in it unless it had beneficial applications for people in the end.
Also, I love being known as reliable and action-oriented. I take pride that I always answer my boss’s requests right away, and that I’ll take care of something that needs to be done without her having to ask me; she knows she can count on me. It’s the way I give myself an ‘A’ every day. 🙂 Surprising how that need never really goes away…
Normally, my job (teacher) is very fulfilling, although I sometimes flop back and forth. I have my good days or classes and bad ones too. I still like it but I have my bad days too.
My job is definitely not changing the world. I value companies, portfolios and help the extremely rich pay as little in taxes as possible. I’m not passionate about it, but I do a good job and it’s in an extremely stable industry.
Do I find fulfillment in my career? My job allows me to do other things that I love, so I guess you could say it does.
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I adore this post. Such good insight.
That’s a nice train of thought. Come to think of it, when I was a receptionist at a law firm — answered 12 incoming lines, greeted clients, filed time sheets — I had more fun on the job than anything. Maybe it was because I DIDN’T feel like I was doing anything altruistic: I was just doing a job and trying to do it competently while enjoying the people around me. Hm.
Teaching: well, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s an altruistic endeavor and after all we don’t do altruistic endeavors for the money. Still…it’s hard not to get frustrated with the excruciatingly low pay, considering the amount of training and expertise required, the responsibility the job entails, and the potential effects on people’s lives (both positive and negative). And it’s hard not to be disheartened by our students’ abysmal preparation (in a US community college, about 60 to 80 percent of incoming students are not prepared for college-level work), by their abysmal attitude toward learning as an endeavor, by their willingness to slough off or cheat (heh…read “by the fact that they’re only human”), and by the discovery that many of them earn more with their high-school diplomas at waiting tables or pole-dancing than I do with a Ph.D., a long series of publications, 20 years of real-world experience, and 15 years of teaching experience.
Oh. Let’s face it. I hate teaching. Altruism or no altruism. Love the students, but hate the job.
Editorial: The nice thing about producing a book or a magazine is that you end up with something you can hold in your hand and say “I did that!” Occasionally that product does contribute something of benefit to the human race. Usually not. But then, the same can be said of teaching.
By and large, I no longer want to help people (there’s a way to get bitten on the butt) or change the world. I just wanna make a living.
[…] with low starting salaries and a similarly modest long-term pay trajectory. No doubt I could find enjoyment and meaning elsewhere and make more money, but I know that would not make me […]