9.27.2013

On the Search for a Meaningful Job

There's an article floating around the interwebs on how my particular generation is obsessed with finding meaningful work as opposed to sticking with a job and getting good at it, in turn making that work meaningful.

While I think the article brings up some insightful points, such as, not everyone is special; I still believe my generation has a point of their own: why not search for something meaningful? We are the generation that has begun to challenge the idea of processed foods, has become more culturally aware (still an ongoing battle though) and has become increasingly philosophical in questioning the institution of marriage and the American "path to happiness". While I still believe in certain mainstream belief systems, it's the questioning part I applaud. My generation likes to ask, "why?"

So yeah, I think overall we have a problem with being sort of entitled (we were children in the 80s and 90s, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US??). And we tend to get lusty over certain things. For me, it's travel. For others, it might be a shiny car. Generations before seemed to be content with a lot less. I say "seem" because it's all speculation anyway.

The point I'm getting at is why not look for a meaningful job? Whether it's an office job that makes you smile, or a construction site that you fancy working at, or a acting gig that brings purpose to your life...I do believe it's better to search for meaning rather than being a mindless zombie day in and day out. Despite our entitled-ness, I still think when you know you know. Within reason, I live for that search for meaning. I think it's a return to being more human after the robotic work life the industrial revolution put into place. The article above fails to recognize that the work culture we know to be true from the last 100 or so years is purely circumstantial; but searching for meaning has always been the human quest from the very beginning.

In short, I do think it's possible to be a good employee while also going after the desires of your heart. Keep on, keeping on Gen Y! 

11 comments:

  1. As someone half a generation or so older than you, I have to say that from what I'm seeing from my younger friends is that many of them aren't willing to take a job unless it's meaningful. I know far too many who are content to live at their parent's house, on the couches of others, or have parents foot the bill of their own places until they find the meaningful job they think they deserve and in the mean time are not contributing members of society.

    I talk to friends who are in established positions in other fields and they talk about the younger people coming in who think they don't have to pay their dues to a field: Engineers who don't want to do the "grunt" work, lawyers who won't start with the research and paper work, political sorts and lobbyists who don't want to get the coffee (which by the way can be more helpful than you realize)

    I don't think it's everyone, but it's enough people that others have taken notice.

    My job isn't all that meaningful as far as I'm concerned outside of helping people understand the ins and outs of federal and NYS law, but it gives me opportunities to do meaningful things with my off time and money to pay for the things in life I want to have.

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  2. I sort of have to agree with Baking Suit... I grew up being called Gen X, but as I got into college, suddenly I was being referred to as Gen Y (turns out 1980, the year I was born, is sort of the cutoff). I identify more with Gen X.... I dislike the entitlement attitude of those who want it all, but refuse to accept the consequences of their actions or take responsibility for themselves. Not saying you are like that, but it seems there are a lot of younger people out there who are.
    D.

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  3. I think there is a difference between feeling entitled and wanting to do meaningful work. You can feel you are doing meaningful work and still start at the bottom. Realizing that the work you are doing is contributing to something you believe in or something you care about. That is what causes you to want to get up every day and do the best that you can. i work with a lot of older generation people too and the ones who find meaning in their work (and have for a long time) are the best at their jobs over anybody and a lot of the others are just trying to run out the clock and retire before they are laid off. It's not necessarily about just "starting" at the bottom, it is about seeing where you would go from that bottom and deciding if that is where you'd want to end up.

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  4. I understand all these points.I think there's a lot of stereotyping going on with Gen Y. All of my friends have been hard workers and have accepted jobs in the bottom (as have I). 'Finding Meaning' you bring up a good point that I was also thinking...starting at the bottom for a job you find meaningful is what I'm getting at! Bakingsuit and D, I agree with you both. I in NO WAY endorse people living off of others to benefit themselves. That's just selfish.

    However, I still think people should not be afraid to go for the jobs they truly want. I don't think we need to settle for mediocre or be told we're not hard workers for going after something grand. I truly find meaning starting at the bottom of a company I believe in and know I can work my way up in.

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  5. Excellent post. I don't know how to say this without sounding kinda patronizing, but one thing I admire about the "Y's" is their willingness to go into business for themselves or take jobs that reward the soul more than the wallet. Whether its starting a business that employs others and gives a valuable product or service to its customers, or entering a field just because it excites you without regard to getting paid, the Y's seem less afraid to take risks than my generation. I really admire how a few buddies with little more than pocket money and whatever they can scrape together will risk it all to pursue a dream. And likewise I admire someone who will sacrifice wealth and trappings to pursue something in their heart. I don't know if its a young person thing or a generation thing, but its a definite shift. I'll be interested to watch it play out over time.

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  6. Oh, should have mentioned, this reminds me of the end of Office Space, where Peter takes a construction job. "Making bucks, getting exercise, working outside."

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    1. EXACTLY what I was thinking of!! And thanks, Chris :)

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  7. you re giving me hope for gen y!!

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  8. thoughtful response! i only worry about people like a certain person in my family who are NEVER happy no matter what she does, refuses to find a full time job, works at a restaurant and spends all her money on traveling...what will she do when she needs to retire? she will literally have no money in the bank to survive her older years? and she's 36! things like that terrify me.
    i tend to fall somewhere in the middle of the whole thing I think. I'll get my meaningful job back when i'm in the us and can do social work! but its a pharma company for now, pays the billz yo!

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    1. Is that why you posted the article? :) No, I definitely feel ya. There MUST be a common ground! I believe in retirement funds.

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  9. There are a lot of meaningful jobs, especially in dc, but they're super competitive. So I'm hoping that I can work somewhere that's not super meaningful, but gain experience to someday be where I want to end up.

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