Friday, July 6, 2012

What is a meaningful job?

I am not certain if I posted the following personal entry on this blog before but I am doing so because ... I can. The entry was written almost 2 years ago but nothing seems to have changed in terms of my view towards the topic. We are all working towards some sort of an objective in life and to attain that we often have to take the path less travelled. Some are more fortunate to have the option to do while some require a bit more effort in doing so. The reality is, at this stage of age, it is almost impossible for everyone to start the race from same starting line. Accept this fact and work towards overcoming such disparity if you like to call it as such. There is no point in whining about it because it would not change anything just because you say so. What prompted me to say all these? Someone recently asked me for career advice and my reply was quite straight forward, "there is no such thing as a career nowadays, create your own career and build on it." Perhaps it was a bold statement for the kid about to enter university but I personally think if one cannot understand the changing definition of a career, he/she is in for quite a surprise down the road. The ability to anticipate change is very important and it takes more than piles of textbook to learn about it. I was then asked or more accurately been informed the ideal situation is to find a job that is meaningful. OKAY, there is no such thing as a meaningless job, it may be meaningless to you because you labelled it as such due to your dislike of it but it surely is meaningful to someone else you may or may not know. Guess what, someone may even envy your so-called meaningless job for many reasons. While the word meaningful is very subjective, do think of the following passage the next time you want to use the word to describe the job you picked.


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[from my personal blog July 2010]

I came across the following passages while reading about biscuits, the story of producing biscuits to be exact in Alain De Botton's recent work titled: "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work." I find it quite interesting and true how he relates the topic and expresses his views towards the meaning of work.

When does a job feel meaningful? Whenever it allows us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others. Though we are often taught to think of ourselves as inherently selfish, the longing to act meaningfully in our work seems just as stubborn a part of our make-up as our our appetite for status or money. It is because we are meaning-focused animals rather than simply materialistic ones that we can reasonably contemplated surrendering security for a career helping to bring drinking water to rural Malawi or might quite a job in consumer goods for one in cardiac nursing aware that when it comes to improving the human conditions a well-controlled defibrillator has the edge over even the finest biscuit.

But we should be wary of restricting the idea of meaningful work too tightly, of focusing on the doctors, the nuns of Kolkata or the Old Masters. There can be less exalted ways to contribute to the furtherance of the collective good and it seems that making a perfectly formed stripey chocolate circle which helps fill an impatient stomach in the long morning hours between nine o'clock and noon may deserve its own secure, if microscopic, place in the pantheon of innovations designed to alleviate the burden of existences.

It made me think about my job and how it fits in the bigger picture of life or of the society. Are we or am I somewhat contributing in the microscopic ways for the advancement of culture or society? To be honestly, I have no idea, I am yet to grasp the ability to view things in this direction or perspective but I do want to attempt. I believe the wish to do so is already a big step to begin with. Perhaps minor things I do can make a huge difference in one way or the other.

A quick look around town, retailers and consumers continue to benefit from each other in a magical way with a common denominator we call money. Everyone works hard to earn a living, earn some extra bucks to spend, to satisfying their desire in whatever ways they can afford. I think it is a fair way and no objection to that at all. However, I am sure at some point in life, one would step back and ask oneself the question of "meaning in life / work." Unfortunately, I don't understand why such "reflection" usually happens during times of turmoil or times of turbulence? Such thoughts or ideas should be equally prevalent during boom times am I right?

4 comments:

CA said...

The definition of meaningful changes from one person to another dependent on their own needs, wishes, or desires. Unfortunately for many in HK where greedy landlords rule, the most meaningful job for them is one that pays enough money to provide for his/ her family whilst those who are further up the salary ladder or those who have financial security have the option of choosing a job that adds more value/ meaning to their own or other people's lives or to their society.

As to why people seem to ruminate more about their "meaning in life / work" during "during times of turmoil or times of turbulence" perhaps it's because we want to be distracted by the negativity that's going on in our lives at that moment and since we're not at peace at that moment, we question what is important or not to us to find out what is making us feel at unease? During the "boom times" one is too busy enjoying those fruits to even question anything.

Anne said...

So interesting! I think we all struggle with that question. Especially those of us (like all of us!) who envisioned "changing the world" in high school and college.

Louisse Campbell said...

Meaningful job came across my mind when I was in my senior days in College, I remember that day when I’ve read the newspaper and saw some classified ads in manila. At first I never picture myself to be working right after I graduate, but I realized that jobs won’t find you; instead you’re the one who’ll be chasing them. After all the chasing and interviews, the right and meaningful job comes along.

Carrie Bowen said...

I personally believe that a meaningful job should be something that motivates you for something that you want. I've been eyeing from this travel trailers for sale in arkansas and hopefully I'll be able to buy one next year (after 3 years of saving!). I would always want to quote a co-worker for saying this: You work to live, not live to work.

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