When the Job Fits, Wear It. | Discovering What Matters

Ask people what they hate about their jobs and they don’t hesitate to say things like: 

  • “The work is boring.”
  • “It’s a dead end.”
  • “My boss is useless.” 

Ask them what they like and they pause a bit, then say: 

  • “Well, I’m glad I have one.”
  • “I work with some nice people.”
  • “There are some good days.” 

We can do better than this. Actually, we need to do better. 

Why? Because our jobs are about us—who we are, what we bring, how we connect, and where we’re headed. 

A job is not a static thing. It’s a living manifestation of our actions. 

Discover what matters. 

On the surface a job looks like a compilation of duties, task, and requirements. When we only work on the surface, we fail to see what’s below. 

It’s a bit like swimming in the ocean without any awareness that beneath us there are colonies of species struggling to survive, wreckages waiting to be discovered, and mysteries of the earth’s formation. 

Every job we experience is an opportunity to discover what matters to us. That’s how we figure out what we need from each subsequent job to make our careers worthwhile. 

Not long ago, I met Donna, a personal care aid for the elderly. She worked at a church-run home that sadly was closing. She was losing her job and I was there to provide career next-step ideas and tools. 

Even though Donna was disappointed, she was upbeat. She’d worked all her life in service-related jobs—a waitress at various restaurants and a clearing person for individuals and businesses. She loved working, being busy, engaged with others, feeling energized. 

There were several good transition options for Donna, particularly setting up an actual cleaning services business where she could hire others as independent cleaning people to handle anticipated volume. Our meeting was going beautifully. 

Then I asked Donna how she felt about closing the door on her work with the elderly. Suddenly, her mood changed.

She told me that the previous day, she and the two other women who worked with her as a care team went to visit several of the residents relocated to a nearby facility. Then she started to cry. 

“What’s wrong, Donna?” I asked. 

She answered, “It was so hard going there and seeing that someone else was taking care of the people I took care of. It was hard for me to give them up.” 

Donna came to realize that her job wasn’t about administering medication, helping people dress and stay clean, or ensuring their safety. It was about that important the sense of personal fulfillment and connection that comes from doing for others. 

That core realization is something we each need to discover. When we do, our career path decisions are made easier. 

Find the right fit. 

We tend to understand what a job has meant to us when we don’t have it anymore. So if you want to jump-start your understanding of what matters to you, think about bygone jobs. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What work did I miss when I moved on?
  • Who did I miss and why?
  • What part of myself did I feel like I’d left behind?

Now consider your current job, and ask yourself: 

  • What’s the real reason I do this work?
  • What do I really need/want to get out of my job? 

Your answers to these questions can help you discover the jobs that truly fit you. If you don’t like your answers, that may be a signal that you need to make a change. 

These lyrics sung by folk singer, Joni Mitchell, in “The Big Yellow Taxi” remind us how important it is to discover what matters to us before we run out of time to fully incorporate it into our careers:  

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Please don’t let anyone, especially yourself, pave over your paradise.

Photo from Bonsailara1 via Flickr