This morning, I’m buried in cover letter and résumé examples for students. It occurs to me that I spend most of my lectures helping students prepare to find a great job, but I always leave an important lesson out:
I never talk about how to love a job once you find one. Is there a way to love. . . work? If the next 50 years of their lives will be spent working, might I challenge them–and myself–to find the passion in what seems, on the surface, mundane?
I want to be realistic with them: Chances are, the dream job they hope for might not come about in this particular economy. But that’s not a problem for someone who can find flair in the ordinary.
As I thought about my own career and the various jobs I’ve been paid to do (babysitter, ice-cream scooper, cashier, camp counselor, teacher, speaker, writer) I wondered what makes a job great. Each of these jobs delighted me, and I have great memories of the communities I formed in each work environment. Even when my feet hurt so badly I had to soak them after a full day as a cashier, I still wanted to go to work the next day. It became a personal challenge to be positive, kind, and enthusiastic even when customers yelled at me.
I think I learned to find the meaning in my work, but that significance didn’t correlate to wage or title. If I find meaning in service, my interaction with people, and my contribution towards advancing something good in the world–whether I’m in a marketing firm, a hospital, or behind a cash register–I start to love the work.
I want to ask myself and others what makes their work meaningful to them. And if it’s not meaningful, but menial, can I mentally elevate the significance of the task before me so I can see the truth behind my unique contribution? Can I make even “boring” jobs sacred vocations?
I’ll keep you posted on how this lesson plan goes! Maybe I’ll call it: How to Work with Flair. I think we’ll answer the question: What makes this work significant to you?
What do you think? What would you tell a college graduate about how they can love their work?