Finding A Pathway to Meaningful Work

Over the years, I have applied to my fair share of job postings. First, in my search for part time work and summer jobs, then as a co-op student in university, and now looking for full time work. There is no shortage of articles online with authors offering their version of ‘the guidebook’ to finding a job. In my experience, you have to sift through the junk and pick out what’s important and what you can actually use yourself.

In the past month, I have read a handful of online articles that would fit into the ‘what’s important’ category. I enjoyed these four in particular because they discuss the importance of enjoying what you do for a living. So the next time we are surfing the job boards, I think the combined messages of these articles are important ones to keep in mind. The four article I read are listed, below.

  1. Best Advice: What You Want To Do Isn’t Always What You Want To Be, written by Kevin O’Leary, published February 3, 2015
  2. Why It’s Never Been More Important For Kids To Explore, written by Chris Burkard, published March 2, 2015
  3. Legendary Mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s Advice to the Next Generation, posted by Freddie Wilkinson, published March 6, 2015
  4. Why We Lost Leisure: David Steindl-Rast on Purposeful Work, Play, and How to Find Meaning in the Magnificent Superfluities of Life, written by Maria Popova, published on an unknown date

These are the messages that I’ve taken away from the authors, above:

Getting to the fun part happens over time.
This is a something I have had to embrace as a recent university graduate. Based on the field you are interested in, you must develop the necessary skill set and combine that with relevant experiences to get where you want to go. Then over time, you can begin to enjoy what you do more and more.

You may need a job to support your work.
Kevin O’Leary’s article stresses this point. He argues that you need to be able to financially support yourself while you pursue what you are really passionate about. I agree with him on this. Although, I think if you are able to support yourself with the work you are really passionate about, then do it. If not, try to find another way to pay the bills.

Identify opportunities and chart a new course when the timing is right.
I think it’s important to identify opportunities that get you in a position to enjoy what you do. Sure it would be nice, if you’re already there, but if you’re not then take some time to figure this out. It could be starting up your own operation, moving to an organization in a more relevant field, taking a course, who knows, it could be anything. After reading the arguments that Burkard and Popova present in their articles, I would say that it’s important to take risks in order to pursue meaningful work. If not, years might pass by while you wait for just the right opportunity. Smart risks can get you there faster.

How you get there can be more important than the destination.
This is a piece of advice that Reinhold Messner provides in the article posted by Freddie Wilkinson. Choosing to do something only because it will sound cool when you tell someone about it, is not a great idea. The process of pursuing the work you really enjoy is more satisfying and can have just as much of an impact as reaching your destination itself. In Messner’s world this applies to climbing mountains, but I find it applicable to the working life too.

So what does it all mean?

I think in the end it comes down to the fact that there is no single pathway that everyone can take to arrive at their dream job. Different people pursue different goals, and it’s about finding a pathway that leads you towards achieving them. The reason I like the idea of ‘meaningful work’ over the idea of a ‘meaningful job’ is that I find work can relate to someone on a more personal level. Of course it could be related to your career, as well.

So how do you know whether you are completing meaningful work or not? No one can give you that answer. But, if someone asked you to create a list of career related goals, and what you wrote down, you also considered personal goals, that might be a hint your work is meaningful to you.

Stay adventurous.

 Shane

Finding A Pathway to Meaningful Work

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