This Valentine’s Day I thought I’d write about another kind of love. A love for what I do, my “job”, if you could call it that.
When it comes to falling in love with my job, I’m a sucker. I quite easily fall head over heels with any half-interesting project that looks my way. But the thing that really makes me go all gooey inside is the knowledge that my work can have a real impact on people’s lives – because that’s what’s important to me.
I always thought I was just lucky in job-love. Lucky to be given opportunities to do amazing work because I was in the right place at the right time… or maybe there were just slim pickings! But recently I’ve realized that my good fortune in job-love has not been about stumbling across the right one or good HR matchmaking; it’s because I have followed what’s in my heart (just like real love, say “aawww”).
When I take a new job or start a new project, there are three key things I ask myself to know whether I will love that job one day.
1. Will it have an impact on what’s important to me?
I love my job most when I know it’s contributing to something bigger, or something important to me. Luckily there are a lot of ways you can do this without having to down tools and work for free.
These might be things that impact your everyday life, like a great education for your children, making our roads safer or protecting native wildlife. Or it could be something as big as reducing worldwide poverty.
But we’re not all cut out to be humanitarians, firefighters, or on the Sea Shepard fleet, so luckily to love your job you can still do what you’re good at and contribute to what’s important to you. Sir Ken Robinson, in his bestselling book calls this, ‘The Element’, which he describes as “the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion”.
If you’re an accountant because you’re good with numbers, but you really love to fish, you could be an accountant for an organisation that helps to protect waterways and reefs. If you’re a teacher and you’re passionate about the environment, you can teach your students tips on saving energy while you work. If you’re a builder who loves animals, you can design features that help to keep animals safe.
Even if it is world poverty you want to tackle, there is still a way to do this from the comfort of your own job. A TED talk I recently listened to on ‘The why and how of altruism’ by Peter Singer, explored an interesting concept: that highly skilled people who want to make a real difference to humanitarian issues can sometimes make as big an impact by being successful in the job they love doing.
For example, a successful career in Finance could net you enough money to give back to a nonprofit that funds say five humanitarian workers. Each one of these humanitarian workers would likely do as much or more good as you would have done yourself (considering your skills may be more suited to reeling off stock prices than providing emergency medical aid), so you quintuple your impact simply by being successful in your own career.
2. Am I interested in the topic?
If you have a personal interest in the area you’re working in, not just the technical aspects of your role, you are more likely to stay focused on the job.
I’ve worked with lots of different people on issues such as environment and marine conservation, Indigenous development, social services and healthcare, and I’ve always found that people are happiest when they have a real passion for both the organisation they work in and the cause they are working for. Like-minded people tend to hang out in like-minded places after all.
3. Do I want to be involved, even when I’m not being paid to be?
This is really about passion. We all know you can’t be in love without passion. And it’s the same when it comes to loving your job.
In my experience, when people are not truly passionate about being involved in the area of work they’re in; it’s hard to stay motivated. It’s just so much more fun when your passion for your job means you can also be part of a broader network, a family. The people around me with passion certainly keep me motivated.
And that’s why I mix business with pleasure every day.
This Valentine’s Day love what you do and it’s guaranteed to love you back!