One of the loudest cries in my country today is the alarming rate of unemployment. The figures from different agencies vary, but they all agree on one point- it’s dangerously high. If you’ve escaped the proverbial (and much dreaded!) labour market, we’re happy for you and we hope you’re making the best of where you are right now. If you’re still in, we sincerely pray you get out soon too and if you’re yet to get in, we hope this prepares you to get out very fast, or best of all, not get in at all.
Landing a job is one thing. Knowing why you’re on the job is another altogether. We’ve found that those who know the ‘why’ somehow excel more than others who only know ‘how’. If you’re presently employed, do you know why?
Femi and I recently shared our concerns about the need to really understand the purpose behind having a job. Here’s what we dug up
1. A job is not the ultimate measure of your self-worth.
Femi: *exhales* How I wish more people know this, Ik. For most, a job is more than just a source of income. It’s a silent (sometimes, not so silent) measure of personal worth. Statements like ‘to be work-less is to be worth less’ (mind you, this is not same word as ‘worthless’) don’t do much for the job seeker’s self-esteem either. Let’s face it- being out of work can be pretty embarrassing, especially when you get reports of your ex-schoolmates landing plum jobs (with eye-popping ‘goodies’ attached); some of whom you were probably better than academically (ouch, that can really r-e-a-l-l-y hurt!).
Ikhide: That’s so true. It takes a whole lot of emotional strength to separate your job from your sense of self worth and not get them mixed up. I had a personal struggle with this one when I didn’t land a job right after NYSC. Irrespective of your employment status, we must always remember to guard our dignity and sense of self-worth. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s doable- and I’m living proof. A job is not the ultimate definition of who we are and what we’re worth.
2. It’s a means to an end- hopefully yours.
Femi: I feel this requires big-picture thinking, which sadly, is kinda rare among young people today. Getting a job should not be an end in itself. It should be a vehicle that takes you towards a desired end. This is why it’s so important to be on a job that ULTIMATELY helps you achieve your PERSONAL goals. In all honesty, I really believe that one of the worst things that could happen to a person is to be stuck in a job that they positively HATE- that’s death in slow motion!
Femi: That’s why I’m bothered when I meet young people who mindlessly pursue any available job without thinking long-term about where they really want to go with their lives. For real, it’s more than just about earning a pay cheque.
Ikhide: But Femi, you know it’s easy to say these things, but when a young graduate has been job-hunting for say, two straight years, is he still thinking long-term or ‘big picture’ to use your phrase? That guy just wants to survive!
Femi: I understand. And I’m sorry if I’m making this sound a bit too easy. I know it’s not, but from observing the lives of older people, I’ve found that so many are regretting decisions they made early in their job choices. Many got involved with work they couldn’t care less about and somehow got stuck there for life. Sticking with a job that has NO connection with your long term personal goals does something dangerous to you- it quenches your inner fire. It dries up a certain part of your spirit and ultimately, fills your life with regret when you look back in later years and wonder what would have been if you had dared to resist the crushing desperation to just do ‘anything’. This is what I’ve learned from people with very successful careers: only take up a job if it somehow helps YOU move forward towards your ultimate personal goals while simultaneously adding value to your workplace.
Ikhide: You once shared with me about the danger of titles and how they blind us to the bigger picture.
Femi: Thanks for reminding me. See, it’s important that you don’t let yourself fall for the trap of titles and impressive job designations like ‘manager’. Titles are a dime a dozen- they’re the cheapest things to hand out. Today, almost any one can be labeled a manager. I’ve heard of all sorts- highway managers, sanitation managers (loll..) and other interesting names. Just forget all that and keep your eyes on where you really want to go. Think about it- your job takes up the better part of your waking hours most days- shouldn’t it be taking you where you really want to go in the process?
Ikhide: This is some heavy stuff, man.
Femi: Oh really? I never knew you weighed it on a scale o *laughs*
3. You’re employed for ONE reason and one reason only- to solve problems
Ikhide: Your employer is not a philanthropist (even if they portray themselves that way).
Femi: *laughs* That’s true. You weren’t employed because your firm was trying to cut down unemployment stats or fulfill its CSR. Every organization recruits because there’s a problem that needs to be solved- and they’re hoping you can do that when you come on board.
Ikhide: Infact, your paycheque actually says “we’re offering you this with the hope that you’ll solve so and so problems while you’re here”
Femi: That’s correct. You know, I’m amazed when I meet young people who are always whining about their job responsibilities. I’m tempted to ask “what do you think they employed you for, to watch free DStv or just to enjoy free internet service at the company’s expense?”
Ikhide: Sounds like the employee is almost like a tool. Hmm…not too many of us like the sound of that.
Femi: It may be harsh, but the truth hasn’t always had a reputation for being nice. Let me quickly add this: YOU’RE NOT EMPLOYED TO BE RICH! This is probably one of the most powerful discoveries that helps me keep my job in the right perspective. Your getting rich is not your employer’s responsibility. That’s yours. When a firm is deciding on your pay grade, they’re not thinking “what can we offer him/her that’ll help them get rich quickly?” Far from it! Infact, in many cases, they’re thinking almost the opposite, “what’s the lowest possible pay we can offer for this level of expertise?” it’s not that they’re insensitive; it’s just the way the working world works.
Ikhide: So you’re saying we should stop counting on our jobs for financial abundance? Then someone must be thinking “what am I working for?”
Femi: What I’m saying is this- know that your ultimate financial state is not your employer’s responsibility. It’s yours. And the earlier you embrace it 100%, the faster you can move forward towards your personal financial freedom.
Ikhide: So in closing this point, we need to ask ourselves the tough question: What problems am I solving on my current job? And for those yet to secure one, what problems are you capable of solving for an organization right now?
Femi: Well said
4. It’s a great place to learn, express your skills and creativity and add value
Ikhide: Femi, I remember my reaction when I realized that most of what I learned in school just didn’t fit in the real world of work.
Ikhide: Sure some of it came in handy but for most parts, getting employed was like going to school all over again
Femi: *cuts in* And that’s one of the true reasons you should take up a job. Not just because of the pay (though that’s super-important) but because of the opportunity you get to learn skills and habits that you know will serve you long after you move on. A job is also a great place to hone your skills and add value. Also, if you’re the entrepreneurial type, a job can buy you some time to gain some business experience, garner some financial resources and most importantly build up relational capital that you may need to call on when you do eventually strike out on your own.
Ikhide: Yeah. We all have this natural craving to do things that make a difference. We want to do what matters.
Ikhide: We feel that rush of excitement and fulfillment when we know that our efforts are adding value to the bigger picture. A job (the right kind) gives the opportunity to do this. It affords an avenue to use education and acquired skills to be of service to others in some way that makes meaning to both parties. Let’s wrap this up shall we, just one quick last point.
Femi: Alright. It’s really getting interesting
5. Our work is a channel for God’s blessings
Ikhide: I once heard David Abioye talk about work in one of his messages. He said work is actually a blessing and not a curse. He cited Adam’s experience. Even before Adam messed up and was tossed out of Eden, he was already working. Infact, that was the first thing God gave him after creation. You know, God works with laws and principles. And one of his principles is that he chooses to bless us through the works of our hands. So when we work, we’re actually setting ourselves up as beneficiaries of his blessing; and not just in terms of material blessings but the ‘intangibles’ like high-quality relationships that we develop over time, sustained health (haven’t you noticed how idleness breaks down the body?) and many others. When we work, we open up the channel for God’s blessings
Femi: And the better we work, the wider the channel
Ikhide: Exactly. Couldn’t have put it in a better way myself. Thanks Bro for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Hopefully someone out there will be helped by these truths. Thanks man
Femi: Always a delight to rub minds.
Live by Design.
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