Find Meaning in What You Do

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Follow your dreams. Find a job you are passionate about. Do what you love. If we lived in a world of ideals, these career taglines would be what all your colleagues preached. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

We often hear about the sucky days at work, how annoying a boss or a co-worker can be, or how a job can be so daunting. In fact, the phrase “passionate about work” sounds somewhat like an oxymoron to me. By definition, “passionate about work” means “having an uncontrollable emotional feeling towards a mental or physical activity which achieves a result”. Ridiculous, isn’t it? A quick Google search reveals numerous articles on finding passion at work, but do any of these pieces of advice actually work?

Have you ever been stuck in a lull at work…a period of showing up to work, but not really showing up? Sure, you sit at your desk, reply to emails, and attend meetings, but are you really at work? Perhaps you are there, but you are unmotivated. Then you go home exhausted and hating your job at the end of the day. And the cycle continues over, and over, and over again. How do you break this cycle and find interesting work? Well, the answer is not always clear, but my research and experience tell me this:

1. Redefine What Your Job Means to You

Work may be uninteresting to you because you deem it uninteresting. Let me elaborate. The work you are doing may not be interesting because you have not defined its meaning. For instance, a few years ago, when I got my first job at the local mall, I found it dull because I thought I was simply selling sweatshirts to customers. However, the position was much more. On top of selling clothing, I was learning how to better sell a lifestyle and a brand. My managers there taught me about merchandising, building customer relations, and meeting business targets. Ultimately, this made my experience valuable because I explored an area that was more than what I thought the job entailed. Essentially, I redefined my position to make it fulfilling to me.

2. Ask For New Tasks at Work

The tasks we do at work may just be downright boring and mundane. Sometimes it’s inevitable, but if you find yourself finishing all your work and having nothing to do, it may be time to start asking for additional tasks to keep yourself occupied. You can learn new things, develop new skills, and explore interests with this additional work.

For two summers I worked with the Ontario Government, and in my first summer I began cleaning out old filing cabinets and archiving documents. Not a fun task, albeit very important. My manager saw I completed the task with enthusiasm,  speed and accuracy, so when I approached her for additional work to do, she didn’t hesitate. I began working on more interesting projects like business cases and public relations strategies.. Because of these new assignments, I was excited to work in the same office for a second summer in a row.

3. Get Involved with Activities Outside of Work

Work may be uninteresting, and no new tasks – so now what? Participating in extracurricular activities outside of work may be the perfect opportunity for you to explore new interests. You work may offer extra activities or teams to join. Or consider searching for hobbies or skill-building workshops to attend during some weekday evenings.  Another great option is to spend some time volunteering. You’ll give back to the community and cause you care about, plus meet new people! In one of my past part-time jobs, I found myself needing a new challenge, so I searched for volunteer opportunities to help develop additional skills. I stumbled upon TalentEgg’s National Campus Recruitment Excellence Awards and applied to be a volunteer judge (check out my past article on why being a judge for TalentEgg rocks here). The experience was absolutely amazing, and ultimately led to one of my favourite hobbies – writing freelance for TalentEgg!

4. Set Goals

Work that is time-consuming can become mundane and exhausting. Setting time goals can help you stay on track and be motivated to see projects to completion. Try setting some professional goals for yourself and have a meeting with your manager to discuss the possibilities. For example, when I was at the Ontario Government, I approached my manager about my goal to gain exposure in financial analysis. She was very open to helping me achieve this and allowed me to shadow the financial analysts. This allowed me to gain hands-on insight into a financial-related projects that I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to.. Just remember, all goals should be accompanied by a S.M.A.R.T action plan to keep you on track – your meaningful and exciting work may be closer than you think!

One of my favourite professors at Schulich once told me in class that a job has two purposes: to fill your heart and your belly. You need to feed yourself and put clothes on your back to satisfy your “belly”, and you need to have an interest in the work you do to satisfy your “heart”. For some, finding that interest in work may take time, for others, it may come easy. At the end of the day, your happiness matters, and if you’re not in a position of interest to you right now, take a moment to reflect and think what needs to be done, and then take action. Remember – your career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It takes time to get to the ideal job, and there’s more than one route to success. Make a plan, stay positive, and take action!

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