My friend and former colleague has a view of work that I admire. For her, a career is simply a way to make a living — nothing more, nothing less.
But that doesn’t mean that she takes her career lightly or that she doesn’t give 100% and do a great job. She actually does a terrific job, and is valued by her leaders as someone they can count on. But for her, as long as she likes the work well enough and is paid well, she’s content. She doesn’t have to love her job or find much meaning in it. This, however, is the polar opposite of how I view my career and work.
More than a decade ago, I was watching an Oprah show and heard her say something I have never forgotten: She loved her job, in part, she said, because she got paid to be herself. When I heard those words, “get paid to be myself,” something deep within me was stirred. That phrase resonated so deeply within me that it was like getting a diagnosis to explain a long-standing, mysterious illness.
Throughout my entire career in the corporate world, I had felt a restless sense of dissatisfaction, and I didn’t understand why. When I heard Oprah say those words, something clicked into place.
Other people often said I was fortunate to have the great jobs I had (true) and that I was lucky to work for great companies (also, true) and it was so great that I was well-respected, got to travel, etc. All of what they said was true. And yet, still, it felt like I had a gaping hole inside of my soul.
For me, and many people like me, our career/work is about so much more than a paycheck. And for us, a paycheck alone will never be enough to satisfy us.
We are the people who believe that we all (as in the entire human race) have gifts and talents given to us by our Creator, and that to be truly satisfied with our work, we must share these gifts. We are the people who crave having careers that align with our most authentic selves.
We want work that feeds our souls and allows us to use all of who we are — our strengths, our personalities, our values, our beliefs, our passions, our talents — all of it. We want to find and answer our callings. Anything less will leave us feeling flat and uninspired.
That’s not to say that I never had work that was meaningful or enjoyable when I worked in the corporate world. There were a few times when I truly loved certain projects I worked on, but, as with all things, those always came to an end. And it’s also not to say that those of us who believe we have a calling can’t be happy working in corporations — we can, provided we find corporations that allow us to use our talents and gifts and that also align with our values.
Many of my coaching clients come to me seeking to discover their true callings. This is rarely a simple or easy process. For me, it took years of soul searching, researching, taking various assessments, and trying out different things. Finally, a clearer picture began to emerge for me after I was able to see my strongest talents and get on the path that lead me to this work I love now as a career and strengths coach. And it’s why it’s one of the tools I use with my clients today.
Sometimes, I really envy her ability to separate who she is from what she does. I often think it would make it so much easier to make a living if I could adopt her viewpoint. And yet, deep inside, I know I must live so authentically that my work/career is a reflection of who I am. And I truly believe that by using the talents and gifts given to me, not only do I feed my own soul, but I also help nourish the world.