Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to Love Your Job

This morning, I'm buried in cover letter and résumé examples for students.  It occurs to me that I spend most of my lectures helping students prepare to find a great job, but I always leave an important lesson out:

I never talk about how to love a job once you find one.   Is there a way to love. . . work?  If the next 50 years of their lives will be spent working, might I challenge them--and myself--to find the passion in what seems, on the surface, mundane?

I want to be realistic with them:  Chances are, the dream job they hope for might not come about in this particular economy.  But that's not a problem for someone who can find flair in the ordinary. 

As I thought about my own career and the various jobs I've been paid to do (babysitter, ice-cream scooper, cashier, camp counselor, teacher, speaker, writer) I wondered what makes a job great.  Each of these jobs delighted me, and I have great memories of the communities I formed in each work environment.  Even when my feet hurt so badly I had to soak them after a full day as a cashier, I still wanted to go to work the next day.  It became a personal challenge to be positive, kind, and enthusiastic even when customers yelled at me. 

I think I learned to find the meaning in my work, but that significance didn't correlate to wage or title.  If I find meaning in service, my interaction with people, and my contribution towards advancing something good in the world--whether I'm in a marketing firm, a hospital, or behind a cash register--I start to love the work.

I want to ask myself and others what makes their work meaningful to them.  And if it's not meaningful, but menial, can I mentally elevate the significance of the task before me so I can see the truth behind my unique contribution?  Can I make even "boring" jobs sacred vocations

I'll keep you posted on how this lesson plan goes!  Maybe I'll call it:  How to Work with Flair.  I think we'll answer the question:  What makes this work significant to you? 

What do you think?  What would you tell a college graduate about how they can love their work?


Elizabeth WHite said...

Make sure they pick their job for the right reasons. Wrong reasons include prestige, parental pressure, and doing something because you can't think of what else to do instead (or just haven't given it sufficient thought). Not sure about right reasons - I'm still working on those - but your ideas sound like good ones!

Anonymous said...

Good quote for your lesson plan....''We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.'' ~ winston churchill

JoAnn Foley-DeFiore said...

I would tell them- become friends with your inner Self. Get to know that Friend very well. Then whatever you DO will align with who you ARE and you will naturally love it.

Anonymous said...

I raise an eyebrow at the notion of hewing meaning out of the emptiness of menial work. As cashier, for example, the honest assessment is that one does not contribute anything meaningful to the world. A cashier is an underpaid security guard, monitoring another person's products while the other person makes all the profit off those products. The pittance wage cashiers et alia command is almost an insult next to the money made by the real owners of the products those cashiers sell.

A bit naive to suggest that every person ought to love every job -- or even any job. A job, aside from writing for a living or something similarly driven almost entirely by passion, is not a joy. It is a profitable duty at best, and a scraped-together-living burden at worst.