Over this past year I learned one crucial thing in the workplace: if you don’t value the work you’re doing, you won’t be happy.
Let me explain.
I graduated, got my first job, and thought I was good to go. The position was amazing; I would be writing every day, I would be doing social media, taking photos, writing blog posts and creating website content. Sounds perfect for a person like me, right? Well, I failed to look at one crucial element: WHERE I was working and the purpose of my work.
I never worked in a place where I was unhappy. Even if I wasn’t extremely passionate about what I was doing, I was passionate about the place I worked and the people I worked for. This made going to work every single day an amazing experience. To be honest, I thought everywhere I worked would be equally great.
Flash forward to graduation and my first “real” job in New York City, and you could say I quickly learned this is not the case.
If you are close with me, you know how much I struggled this past year. Yes, my job seemed amazing on the surface, and to be fair it was a GREAT first job, but I couldn’t see the purpose or the point of my work. To me, it was only a paycheck, and this made going to work every single day dreadful. I actually think I cried on multiple occasions walking to work.
So, what was the problem?
Yes, I wrote every day. Yes, I was able to be creative and take photos. Yes, I had a salary and a job in New York City. So no, I shouldn’t complain. But, after one year, I realized I wanted something more.
I learned an important lesson this past year. I learned that if your values don’t line up with the values of the company you work for, it is difficult to motivate yourself. For example, if you are super passionate about the earth and preventing climate, but you go to work every day for an oil company because you need a paycheck, you might find yourself losing motivation fast. I guess the same thing could be said about my job. I just didn’t really see the point of my position, other than making money. I just went, did my work, left.
I fell into a sort of depression almost. I was lazy, unmotivated, I wasn’t reading (gasp), I was barely writing, and I was grumpy around my friends and family. I came home every day at 6:00, watched the news, ate dinner and went to bed, sometimes as early as 8:30. My thoughts were, “This is it? This is my life? What am I doing? Why am I so freaking miserable?”
I figured this was just the way the world is. That everyone hates their jobs and everyone is miserable and that’s why people suck. I thought it was the “millennial in me” thinking my job had to be amazing and awesome and full of purpose and passion. I think people from an older generation WOULD be quick to say, “Yep. That’s it. You’re a millennial and therefore think you’re entitled to a great job.”
But, my job WAS great, cool, fun, interesting. I knew that already; however, having an awesome job title didn’t matter to me anymore.
You see, this time around, I stopped looking at the position so much as the company I applied to. I wanted to work for a company doing good in the world, a company that is helping others. A company where I could move up, eventually, and have a career working on a global level and actually make a difference, because more than writing and editing, I care about helping others.
You see, after a year of doing day-to-day tasks that were on my trajectory for life; I realized I wanted something more. I wanted to go to bed every day knowing someone, somewhere was benefitting from the work my company did. Some could argue I did this at my last job, but for me that was just surface level stuff. I think it’s just engrained in me to do more (I blame my mother for this). Sure, it might also be “the millennial in me”, but I don’t really see that as a bad thing. If my need in life is to work for a company doing something on a large scale to benefit people, then so be it, I am proud of that.
I realized it doesn’t matter if I am a writer, an editor or a blogger. What matters is that when I get home everyday I am satisfied with what I spent the last nine hours doing. I need to be satisfied with who I am becoming as a person. I need something to work toward. I need it to matter. I want to change and make a difference. Writing, editing and being naturally inquisitive are just tools I can use. They don’t need to be my career. I think that’s where I got so flip-flopped. I thought, “As long as I am writing I will be happy.” But I was wrong. Writing, editing and creative work won’t make me happy if I don’t believe in the content. Going to work everyday as a writer won’t fulfill me if I don’t believe in the purpose of the company I am writing for.
I am so thankful for my first full-time work opportunity because I realized this about myself. I realized my unhappiness didn’t stem from any sense of entitlement I had, because my job was amazing. I thought it was perfect. But, I just didn’t believe in it. I just didn’t really care…
Flash-forward to right now, and I can proudly say I took steps to change that. I found a new job, and this time I looked at companies that had values I respected and admired. I looked at global companies who had room for growth internally. I realized I wanted to work on a global level and go to bed every night satisfied with my company’s work. This time around it was less about me and my job description and more about the company and the work they are doing in the world.
Everyone is different, and everyone has different values. That’s what makes life so exciting, and that’s what makes the work force so intriguing. No matter what you’re interested in and what your skill sets are, you can find a company that aligns with you. Sure, they might not have an opening for you, yet. But, if you’re passionate about climate change then don’t go work for oil, even if the job is better. You can always work your way up, apply for new openings within that company and work toward a career you actually care about rather than a paycheck to get you by.