When I was about to graduate from university, I considered going straight into a Masters program, not because I love school, and I really love school, but because I was scared that my life was about to get sucked into a vicious cycle of working endlessly and savouring my 2-minute weekends. At this point in my life, I hadn’t yet grasped that there was more to work than just working. I had only worked because my degree required me to (as part of the co-op program) or because I wanted to supplement the allowance I got. I grew up in a society where working long hours was necessary to earn a living. Some of my weekends were spent with my siblings at my dad’s office. What I never realized was that these things created an unhealthy perception of what work is. I’ve had a few years of experience that to change my perception on what work ideally should do for you, and here are 5 of them:
- Align with your goals
- Help to grow your skills,
- Inspire you towards more
- Give you a sense of accomplishment & fulfillment
- Recognize that you are human first.
Align with your goals
The work you do should help you achieve your career goals, especially if the job is in your field of study. Even if you’re not working in your field of study, ask yourself if the work you are currently doing aligns with where you see yourself in the future, or at the very least, provides a stepping stone to get there. For example, if you’re currently working as a software engineer and you aspire to run your own tech firm, you’re probably on the right path. Sometimes, this connection is not always straightforward. You might not immediately see the connection between working as an administrative assistant and owning a chain of restaurants, but consider the fact that you might be learning the intricacies of being organized and handling logistics behind running a business. On the flip side, if your work simply doesn’t align with your goals, it might be time to start looking for something else, but first take the time to figure out what these goals are and how you can achieve them.
Help to grow your skills
While you’re working, you should also be growing in your craft and acquiring new skills or sharpening already existing skills. For example, people learn to become better communicators, writers, and leaders through the work they do. If you’re in an engineering career, your technical knowledge should increase with time, this will increase your ability to solve complex problems. A good job will also invest in your growth by presenting you with an array of opportunities to facilitate this.
If you’re like me and you love a good challenge, your work should present you with the good challenges. My best moments at work are those moments right after I’m done solving a problem that seemed complex at the beginning and required me to dig deeper and learn new things along the way.
Inspire you towards more
Your work should inspire you to do more and be more. It should leave you thinking about how you can make the most of the opportunities you’re given and inspire you to think beyond what you already know. And if you’re really lucky, this will trickle down to other areas of your life. So many times, I’ve been inspired by things at work that resulted in me making changes to my personal life or starting personal projects. Inspiration can come from so many places, and the work you do should be one of those places.
Give you a sense of accomplishment & fulfillment
Your work should leave you feeling like you’re a part of something bigger or something that is making impact in someone’s life, whether directly or indirectly. When I started working at Shopify, it was always reinforced that every single person , not just the people that build the platform, was part of the mission to make commerce better for everyone. This ideology influenced how I work. Writing code was not just about completing a checklist to build some software and this was because I was on a mission to make merchants’ and buyers’ lives better. I felt fulfilled as every new feature I worked on got deployed. It is a great feeling when the work you do makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Recognize that you are human first
The work you do and the people you work with should recognize that you are first a human being and you also exist outside of the work environment. Not too long ago, I faced an unexpected health crisis and had to have surgery so I took a week off for both the procedure and recovery. I desperately wanted to feel normal again and since we were already working remotely due to the pandemic, I decided that it was okay to just get back to working as usual. My manager saw right through this and encouraged me to take it easy, take a step back if I needed to and not put pressure on myself. My work mentor reminded me of the golden rule: to put myself and my health first. Your work should not have you feeling like it is more important than your health and mental well being. In an ideal world, you should be able to do without work related apps on your personal phone and have your days off to do whatever you want, instead of catching up on work.
I recognize that work is different for everyone, but the unifying fact should be that work should do more good than harm to you. For a lot of people, work is just a means to provide their needs; the best kind of work helps you provide your needs and benefits you in the ways listed above. If you find yourself constantly burned out from work, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate a lot of things. And if after reading this article you simply do not want to work anymore, all you have to do is strike gold or win the lottery and you’re good to go!