Growing up, we all dream about what we want to do when we’re finally old enough. Astronaut, ballerina, lawyer, whatever we want—we’re often told by our parents that our career should serve a purpose and we never really think that what we do also needs to pay the bills. “Have a job you love going to, love what you do so it doesn’t even feel like work,” grown ups tell us. And as children who tend to listen to their parents, we say “sure, of course, totally!” At least, we grow up planning to “do what we love.” But practicality and realism often get in the way of that. We’ll find our way into our first few jobs because they pay decently and we’re passionate about not starving. After awhile in the workforce, we feel like we’re failing because we haven’t found a “real” job, one that gives us purpose. We may be doing well at our job but we’re still left feeling unsatisfied, waiting and wishing to find that passion that everyone tells us we need to be happy. But does your job really need to give you purpose?
“This is my purpose,” you’ll think when something goes right at work or you’re praised for the excellent research you put into a presentation. When you have a no good, terrible day (or week or month), the best way to shrug it off is to say to yourself “it’s just a job.” But what about all those mediocre days when it’s not bad, it’s not good, it just is? You must be failing at something if your job doesn’t give you purpose every day, right? Not every job can help you save the world. Most of the time, your job helps you take care of your family and yourself. It may even give you pride and a body of work you can point to. Does that make it purposeful?
Everyone you speak to about this will have a different opinion. Yes, it has to be purposeful to be meaningful, some will tell you. Others will say that it doesn’t matter as long as you’re well paid and not overworked. In the end, it’s your own opinion that makes the difference. The way you think about your career is going to make it or break it. If you feel the work you’re doing is pointless or worthless, then you’re not going to be very happy. So, here’s my opinion to add to everyone else’s: It doesn’t matter if your job gives you purpose or not.
No, it really doesn’t! I hate advising people to “fake it til you make it” when it comes to being happy at work but it often is the honest truth. If you’re always looking at the work you do through a negative lens and you’re critical without being constructive, you will never find “purpose” in your work. On the other hand, if you try to be positive and constructive, you can feel that you’ve accomplished something and maybe even influence your company to make changes for the better. It’s not up to your company, school, or industry to hand you a purpose or point out that what you do is in some way vital to the growth of society.Do you need your job to give you purpose? If you do, then start making things happen. Be constructive, work your hardest, do your best, and be patient. When you truly enjoy the industry or field you’re in, this shouldn’t be tough at all. Your job can be meaningful and give you purpose if you want it to. It’s up to you and you can do it.