Finding MEANING in Your Work
Let's take a timeout from the daily grind, shall we? I want to spend a minute (or 4) sharing with you the one part of my story that I'm the most proud of, that makes me the happiest + keeps me going when the going gets rough. I can summarize the reason in two words: human connection. And I don't mean physically chatting with people -- lord knows I did a lot of that for many years, averaging 7+ hours of meetings each day as an agency rep. No, I mean feeling truly connected. It's been the greatest joy in my life.
Since branching out from the corporate world into "The Great TBD" otherwise known as independent consulting, I have noticed so my changes in my physical, mental and emotional health. Typically, I try to be very in tune with my body and my soul, assessing how I feel, why I feel that way, and noting what I may want to keep doing and/or move on from to maintain my best. And I cannot deny it: even early in my third month as a consultant, without consistent income (yet) and in the midst of developing a brand new, more localized network, my happiness quotient is ridiculously high. There isn't a doubt in my mind that this happiness is largely derived from the deep feeling of connection I feel with my community and my clients.
When I was working in agency environments and serving in a similar consultant capacity at various technology companies, I really wasn't feeling connected to what I was doing. I was engaged, don't get me wrong -- but I believe there is a wide chasm between connectivity and engagement. Engagement for me was working hard, constantly learning, and striving to provide my very best work for my clients. It was showing up for every call on time + well prepared. It was measuring results, and pushing, pushing, pushing forward as hard as I could. It was doing all of that under the immense pressure of a very stubborn glass ceiling, never allowing myself the time to dive into how I felt about my work. I was just doing and fighting, fighting and doing.
The most satisfying moments of my career came in the form of the genuine conversations I had with my clients. It didn't matter that I was talking to a Senior VP at Disney or Unilever; they were people, and I adored them for who they were. I wanted them to succeed, and I wanted to feel the satisfaction of knowing I was there to help them achieve the goals they had set for their respective businesses. Those moments made the fight so worth it.
As an independent consultant, I get to create those moments every day. I mentioned earlier that I'm in only in Month 3 of this grand consulting adventure; this means that I am still building up my customer base, an activity that requires a significant amount of time and diligent attention. I was speaking with a friend recently, and began to tell them about two meetings I'd scheduled this week that I was really excited about. They finally stopped and asked me, "but...none of these people are prospects. Don't you need to focus on sales?"
Do I? Of course! And I work towards building my business every day. But there are a lot of hours in that day, and in total, I was only taking a mere 2 of those hours to meet with people who sought me ought for my advice. Out of the 672 hours we have in any given week, that's certainly not unreasonable.
For the past several years, I've served in leadership capacities on several committees at my various workplaces dedicated to mentorship. I have also spent the past 3 years teaching digital marketing in my spare time, to adults looking to change careers and own their futures. All of these opportunities afforded me the time to truly connect with other folks, to take a breather from my own daily grind and help them focus on theirs. The feeling of connection that results from this is so powerful!
I will always take the time to mentor, chat with, share a coffee with, or do whatever I can to connect with people. Sometimes it's with resume advice, sometimes it's with marketing, business or life advice. But every single time, it helps me find meaning in my own work. I would not be the unique or independent success story that I am today without the mentors and supporters I've had throughout my own life, and I truly + deeply believe that when I retire, it won't be the work that I remember. It will be the people who made my days brighter.
In the end, my hope for you is that you take an hour or two -- as often as you can -- to truly connect with people, and give yourself up to their causes and their lives. It will give you a sense of meaning + satisfaction and help you connect your spiritual self to your professional self in ways that are difficult to describe or imagine. And that, dear readers, makes everything else so worth it.