I’ve been listening to some great messages about career for the last few weeks and it’s really made me think about work and it’s impact on my life. I’ve had some crappy jobs and I’ve had some amazing opportunities. And guess what? I’ve learned abundantly in both situations. Work does suck – if you’re not in it for the right reasons. And yes, eventually we will all die. But what happens in the moments we have is the blessing, although sometimes a blessing in disguise.
I’ve learned that the more I work, the more I learn and am able to share with others. We all have a purpose and a job. We’re fortunate if the two are directly related – but surprise! No matter where you work or what your talents are; you can use what you have to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.
You are not defined by your job. You are an amazing person full of complex emotions, wonderful gifts and amazing talent. Your job is a means to the end. You have unlimited potential to make this job, your current job a job of meaningful purpose. Sure, it may not be exactly what you want to be doing. But, it can be a way of expressing your passion and values to those around you. No matter what you are doing, you can make a positive difference. Your job doesn’t define you, but your daily experiences – including your job – make your life. Make a life that is worth living in every area – especially your job.
Every job provides a valuable lesson. I worked in retail for 7 years. I was good at it, but by the end of my retail career; I hated it. I was miserable and I felt like I was stuck in a job that didn’t show my true potential. I thought I was wasting my life. And then I started my current job and realized the wealth of knowledge and invaluable experience I learned in my retail career. Being in retail was a defining moment in my life – one that I realize I was blessed to experience. I worked with amazing people, I received promotions for my successful results and I had co-workers and supervisors that I loved.
Retail taught me confidence, how to sell an idea, how to manage others effectively and in stressful situations, how to build a business, how to hold others accountable, how to think of 20 necessary tasks at a moment’s notice and what it means to make tough decisions and stand by them. I am a better person because of my retail experience.
You may be in a similar situation. Do you hate your job? Does it seem pointless? I promise you are learning something – but I know first-hand that it may be years before you realize your valuable lesson.
There will be seasons of feast and famine; learn to thrive in both. Remember when times were good? Isn’t that nice. It seems like hard times is a more regular occurrence these days. So how do you thrive in the lean times? Buckle down and make it work. What if you’re asked to do more with less? What if you’ve lost the help you need and you don’t get more? What if you’re not getting the credit you deserve? You’ll survive – keep doing good work anyway. Being trustworthy when there is very little makes it easier for you to be trusted when there is plenty.
Your work is significant, even if it’s boring. We moved to a new town when I was in High School and I started a job where all of the cool kids worked. I thought it would be good; it was recommended by a new friend. Those cool kids played pranks on me regularly – dish washing soap in my drink and sabotaging my work. Those jerks! I think those cool kids made an assumption that I wanted to hang out with them (wrong) and that I didn’t want to do the only job that was not near them – dish washer (wrong again). I washed restaurant dishes alone for months – I washed thousands of dishes. And guess what, I was really good at it. And I liked it. I knew it needed to be done and I knew that I could do the job right.
Did my dish washing change the world? No. Was it significant? Yes. I learned that it is powerful to do the jobs no one wants to do, I learned that you don’t need to give in to a bully and I learned that every job has a purpose.
How you work is more important than where you work. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you should be a trustworthy worker and mature example for every job. Since I started my professional career 20 years ago, I’ve watched others closely. I’ve learned that being an honest, reliable worker can take you farther than education, experience or potential. People want to work with people who work hard. I’ve seen a bad attitude and slacking off hold people down for years. I’ve also watched a positive can-do attitude and a strong work ethic benefit even the newest of workers. For every job I’ve ever had, I watch others around me and set a personal goal to beat their performance record. And through my determination and integrity, I was usually able to earn my promotions to the top.
Your attitude and work ethic make a huge difference in your professional career and your happiness. You can be a great worker in the crappiest job and show those around you that it’s your attitude, not your paycheck, that matter. Remember, others are watching you even if you don’t know it – make sure they’re watching the right things.
Your career is not a calling, but a canvas to express your calling. I always thought I knew what I wanted to do. Big lofty goals about the many things I was capable of; sometimes to the point of desperation when others didn’t realize my talents! Then one day, I started to look at what I already was doing and how it was helping people and began to use this as my life-focus. I am an extraordinary organizer and because of this I’m a great manager, a competent leader, and a forward-thinker (and doer).
I can can share my gifts anywhere and with anyone – and looking back at my professional life, I have. I’ve re-organized business processes to improve efficiency (been doing it for 17 years!), I’ve trained and developed employees to reach their potential as great leaders, and I am confidently able to push needed change – even if it’s hard. I still offer to help others organize on a regular basis. Why? Because I love it. I love finding a mess and being able to systematically work through each obstacle until we have a fascinatingly organized result (I’m getting excited just thinking about it!)
You can do this too. You have a gift that others need. Believe me, no one is as good at what you do as you are. You make a difference, and no matter where you are or what you are doing; it is significant because you are significant.