Meaningful Work

After about six months of job hunting I’m starting to think Tim Berry is right: entrepreneurs are unemployable.  In many respects I’d much rather work for myself.  Flexible schedule, I call the shots. More risk but more possible reward.

Wait… those are all great benefits. But what is my greatest desire?  I want to do work that is meaningful.

That’s why I’m so glad to have found a (very) part-time gig doing web editing for LLYC. (I talked about that in yesterday’s post).

Finding meaningful work could be on my own, with a corporation or nonprofit.  It doesn’t matter the entity. That is why as I’ve looked at job openings I’ve not limited myself to any one particular type of organization or industry.

But what does meaningful work mean to me? It’s something that is…

  • Intellectually stimulating: I love thinking and talking about ideas, trying new things, work is like a puzzle to me
  • Goal oriented: I love a challenge!
  • A company/industry that operates with ethics and integrity: toward its customers, employees, the environment
  • Makes the world a better place: this can take many forms

It also has to be a good fit.  Often there’s this indefinable quality that can make a position either a great fit or one to scratch off the list.  I applied for a job several months ago that hit all of the above qualities on paper.  But when I interviewed, I just didn’t click with the people I’d be working with.  I was left with a very different impression than I expected.  My instincts were right; I didn’t even get the courtesy of a return to my follow up calls or form letter rejection from them.

So what is meaningful work for you?

  • rupzip

    Sandra. Sometimes we just have to pay the bills. There is a misconception out there that every job must fulfill us, must stir our soul or empassion us. But not all work meet’s the suggested definitions. Our society needs garbage collectors and mailmen, plumbers and street sweepers.

    Work is sometimes hard, boring and meaningless. But no one promised anything else.

    • Sandra Sims

      Very good point… the best job description in the world won’t cut it without the appropriate earning power.

      A person doesn’t have to be finding a cure for cancer or be a rocket scientist to find meaning in their work. The first story that came to mind was from last week’s Undercover Boss. Have you seen it? The CEO always has to do the lowest rung type jobs to get an idea of whether the company is running well. An employee who worked on an assembly line of a Mack truck said that she loved the repitition of doing the same task over and over. She was good at her job and she didn’t have to worry about anything. It was a peaceful respite from the stress of life outside of work.

      Another show that comes to mind featured Subway. One employee gushed about how much she loved her customers. She was able to brighten their day with a smile and great service. That’s where she found meaning. Another Subway they went to was actually at a church. The congregation took up a collection to pay for the franchise fee and they operated it as a social enterprise. It provided jobs and training, as well as revitalizing a run down area of town.

      I think that is one reason I like that show. It features everyday people who are working very hard, often at very difficult jobs, and yet they often do find satisfaction in their work. Even if it is just the gratitude of being able to provide for their families.

  • Melanie Jongsma

    While I agree with rupzip that everyone needs to earn a living and sometimes work is hard and boring, I think it might also be true that we can BRING meaning to any job we have. And garbage collectors, mailmen, plumbers, and street sweepers are among those most directly involved in making the world a better place!