What motivates us to do what we do? There are numerous reasons for choosing the career path where you are now – or where you end up. Let’s for a moment ignore the question of whether you run your own business, or are employed at an organisation – that deserves a blog post of its own – but look at what value you bring to the world, directly or indirectly, via the product/service that your employer offers to the world.
Examples that may provoke you
Naturally, it’s a privilege that your work should also be personally satisfying and it’s in no way something that everybody acknowledges or believes in. Allow me to exemplify by exploiting a few stereotypes: In many emerging markets, standard production and outsourced labour are main drivers of the economies. This is labour heavy, consequently employing throngs of unskilled labour. Many workers clock in, work, then clock out. And then repeat. (No empirical interviews have been made to state this postulate, though). For these workers, their employment serves only to make a living, and it could easily be substituted for other types of work that would pay better. Thus the value of the product is irrelevant for them.
A business contact of ours encouraged us to use programmers from Bali to make the job crawlers for the Graduateland job engine since: “… they don’t mind repetitive work at all…” – another (somewhat generalised) example of employment where it’s mostly about the salary, not the product.
This is in no way limited to the emerging economies. Most who have experienced being unemployed will agree to the notion that good intentions don’t pay the gas bill, and that even the most unsatisfying job will beat having no job.
Unemployment and pyramids
Anybody familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will know that the fundamentals (financial security is included in the safety layer) need to be ‘checked off’ before pursuing the esteem and self-actualisation issues.
And finally, many people don’t connect the dots between their work life and their personal realisation, thus making the 8 hours they spend a day a necessity in order to do whatever they really want to do, the remaining 2 thirds of their life.
I’m in no position to make judgements of what’s best since it’s a highly personal consideration. But realising that the bottom elements of your own Maslow’s pyramid are somewhat achieved – as is the case for the majority of my peers in Copenhagen/ Denmark/ Scandinavia/ Europe/ the Western world, you make the cut-off – reflecting upon your career as an activity that you actively use to shape yourself (and the perception of you) is just plain interesting.
Blah blah Graduateland, blah blah values…
What is it I do, that is so rewarding that it makes me shed so much light on this whole issue, you ask? Well, as a co-founder of the career network, Graduateland, the overall mission is to put students and graduates into the driver’s seat of their own career, by providing them with a better platform for getting a cool job/internship. A second mission is to make it easier for employers to find the talent that they want to hire – which naturally helps obtain the first mission also.
As a co-founder, there are strategic decisions which obviously drive the Graduateland project forward along a chosen path (hopefully) leading to the goal of accomplishing the aforementioned visions. But then there is also all the other stuff which in itself doesn’t really move the needle, but which are essentials in order for the whole ship to stay afloat.
Spending time on these things can be made so much more meaningful when you acknowledge why you have to do them. And as this blog post is about how to ensure that your everyday job is something that you truly appreciate, I guess my ambition is to get readers to either appreciate that they love their job or to make them reflect upon it, so they eventually will.
More examples, now with global brands
Returning to one of the introductory questions: Did you ever think about what the concrete value is that your employer brings to world? And how your role actually helps to reach that goal?
You may be working at Google, whose vision is to ‘organise the world’s information’, but you’re selling AdWords via the phone. How is that helping to reach the overall goal? Well, the potential customers that you phone up all have websites, that you want them to promote, so they can drive online traffic. When promoted websites get traffic, it’s because the person searching found it relevant and valuable. Thus the relevance of Google’s search engine was proven, and both the searcher, and the AdWords customer benefited from Google’s organisation of information. In direct accordance with the vision. You made that happen with your sale.
If you’re flipping burgers at McDonald’s you may think that you’re just a tiny cog wheel in a monstrosity of a corporation. The bigger the organisation, the stronger this feeling may seem. But keep in mind that every cog wheel in, say a car, is there for a reason, and without it the whole apparatus doesn’t work ideally. As the McDonald’s mission is to become their guests’ favourite place to visit and eat, you’re very much a decisive factor in the concrete experience that guests have. One thing is the brand, which may be managed on a global level, but meeting the customer is done locally, and the burgers being served may be grilled by you. Whether people leave the establishment happy relies more on whether you dropped the beef on the floor, than the jingle in the Super Bowl ad. Keep this in mind, and getting through your night shift just got easier.
…Keep in mind:
Ultimately, it's about being passionate about what you do, and since passion stems from working towards a goal, which you truly wish to reach, you gotta be aware of this goal, as well as the value your role adds. This will both make you better at what you do, since you may be more aware of the overall perspective, and you’ll probably find it more satisfying. And at the end of the day, these things combined will make you a better employee, or a better entrepreneur.
Okay, lots of words, but what’s the concrete takeaway? Easy – figure out what changes you want to bring to the world, and seek out the organisations that are trying to do this – alternatively, start your own business, and do it.
If this seems hard – don’t stress. Look at the companies around you, and look at the vacancies that are opening. Do these companies solve problems that you truly think should be solved, and can you get engaged in their mission? If yes, then perfect! Go for it, and keep in mind what overall battle you’re actually fighting every day when you arrive at the office.