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Why do you do the work that you do?

Newsletter Feature Articles

Why do you do the work that you do?

Jenn Shallvey

A simple question to start you thinking - "Why do you do the work that you do?". I don’t expect an answer right away. What I want to do is instead plant a seed of sorts. Yes I want you to consider this question as you go about your day to day work.

It is one thing to step away and contemplate career, vocation etc. It is another thing to consider this whilst you are in the midst of doing the work.  This challenge to you may sound quite existential or even impractical. Your view depends on how you frame the question.

Let’s take for example your typical day

When you get out of bed and think about going to work or starting your work what goes through your mind? Perhaps you are one of those people who begrudge the Monday. Or maybe you are someone who clocks in and clocks out. You could be a manager biding your time before the big mortgage is paid off. It is even possible you are someone who did what you thought you should do a long time ago and still do it but don’t know why. You have inklings and glimpses of love for your work but get sidetracked by earlier choices.

I think many of us ultimately are in the last category but that it manifests in other ways.  Many of us are guided to our career choice in high school. If you were an early school leaver you jumped into the workforce at a young age. If you went on to university you decided on a path of study to set you up for a later imagined career. Either way you made a choice way back in time when you were young, inexperienced and not so aware of who you are as a person.

Young you vs current you

From the perspective of the person you are now would you go back and make this same choice?  There is no right or wrong answer.  Your answer though gives you insight into what you are choosing right now.  

There is however a healthy answer. Going back and wishing you could do things differently is simply another form of regret.  Many of us have these. A balanced more present response is acknowledging the path you did take and what it means for you now whether you currently like it or not.

There is only one you

You have a unique path of experience, knowledge, learning and talent. You are the only one who has the exact package of what you bring to the table. Yes you may share skills with others. Yes you may have done the same exact role as others. Yes you may be one of many in your company with the same job description. You may be a business owner of a business like many others. Yet you are one of a kind in the way that you do your version of this work. Owning this uniqueness and offering it is what makes the difference in the work you do.

Rise above the common measures

For efficiency and management purposes it is easier for business to look at common denominators. For example you might be assessed on a set of competencies expected in your organisation. You might be measured on the same set of benchmarks as others at your level, industry or organisation.  For me these common factors are a way of creating a level playing field. Beyond this the game is all yours. How you deliver your service is uniquely you!

I can not emphasise this enough. In a world of increasing automation we get efficiency and better results. Absolutely. So what is left is the human difference. Because you are unique your contribution is exactly that - the difference. How you refine your way and offer it through what you do is how you will not just bear doing what you do but love it.

A higher level perspective if you are ready

So let me rephrase the question from the start of this article to consider your work from a higher level perspective.

“How is your unique way of doing the work you do making a difference through your current choice of role, business and industry?"

If you choose to answer this question, great. If you choose not to, then ask your self why not.