I’ve worked a variety of jobs over the past 14 years. From retail to corporate desk jobs, gas stations to chain restaurants, I feel like I’ve done my fair share of different jobs. There have been low-paying ones (quite a few of those) and high-paying ones. I’ve had good bosses and terrible ones. I’ve stayed for a few years versus staying only for orientation.
What ultimately sets the good jobs apart from the bad ones is a combination of things. From pay to health insurance to other employee benefits, like discounts and employee stock, there are a number of perks to being employed with certain companies. With others, it doesn’t matter what they offer, the environment is toxic and rife with complacent managers, or overly controlling ones; lazy coworkers or those who just don’t care; gossip and drama, or lack of excitement.
Despite those negatives, so many employees stay for years. You will run into them at any job. I’ve talked to veterans of the company, who agreed that the systems were inefficient, or that management didn’t hold anyone accountable, or that the general culture was lacking passion or enthusiasm for the job. But they didn’t want to leave because “the money is too good”, or “I need the health insurance”, or “I like my schedule here”. They loved to complain, but they loved those benefits more. I got a lot of excuses like that at multiple companies, from multiple people. Some of that goes into the fear of change, but it turns out quite a few people are happy just making a paycheck and going home.
I need to pay my rent, too, but I won’t stick around a crappy job for them. To me, a job should be more than just the benefits you get out of them. I like to feel a satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from what I do. I enjoy helping others, being in a bright, positive environment, feeling at ease and comfortable, solving problems, maintaining my autonomy, and having the right people around me.
In short, I crave purpose.
Humans, as a whole, seek purpose because it’s key to finding fulfillment. When we lack it, we feel directionless and lost. When we have it, we are confident, motivated, and more relaxed. Everything falls into place.
Having purpose is such a universal human experience, and yet, in my 14 years of employment history, I have found that many, if not a large majority, of my coworkers did not seek purpose.
At least, not in their job. Your paycheck doesn’t have to be your purpose, (though for some, getting the paycheck is their purpose, as they value paying bills and providing for their family to be the utmost purposeful thing they could do).
What if you’re one of those lost, wandering souls, still looking for your purpose? Should you pursue a degree in a field you’re passionate about? Or look for fancy job titles and high-level positions at your most desired companies? Well, yeah, you absolutely could, if you want. That’s great! But, it’s not a universal answer to finding your purpose.
I met a cleaning lady from Venezuela who was dirt poor and barely spoke English, but she was so passionate about doing a good job as a janitor and getting to interact with people on a daily basis. She was a light in everyone’s life. She didn’t have a college degree, or a high school diploma, for that matter.
So, is it just finding something you’re good at and that you like? I think that’s important, too, but it’s still only part of the story.
The important thing about finding purpose isn’t the prestige of the job, or the salary, or the level of education. It’s finding something that you feel passion for, that you feel you belong to. It’s a cause, field, hobby, or industry that you feel needs you. It’s better for having you in it and you’re better for having it, too.
How do you find your purpose? Well, that could be an entire article by itself. In fact, Google is full of them! Amazon, likewise, has tons of books on the topic that you could get for relatively cheap. Maybe I’ll write a post full of resources on this topic, but for now I’ll say this: you’ll know your purpose when you see it.
The amazing thing about not knowing what to do with your life is that you literally have all the options available to you! You can do whatever you want. Write a book, write a movie, be a counselor; advocate for an oppressed, victimized, or minority group; work with kids, work with animals, work with the elderly.
It can be your job. It can be your side hobby. It can be on a volunteer basis.
Explore your options. What do you care about? What gives you light? What are your values? Think about options that tick those boxes and find a way to incorporate it into your life. It may require a bit of sacrifice and rearranging of priorities, but it’s well worth it. I had to cut down on video games to make room for more writing. I do not regret it. We make time for the things we care about most. This is worth the space on your agenda!
Have you found a purpose in life? How did you know?