Tag: purpose

I Worked In a Bank When I Was 22 and Wanted to Walk Into the Sea

At 22, I was professionally flailing. I’d spent my three years since dropping out of college working at a hardware chain and then at a clothing store, finally realizing after too much managerial drama that I didn’t want a future in folding jeans. So, after too many shifts spent crying over the cash register and educating my 17-year-old employees on the symptoms of a quarter-life crisis, I asked a friend for an in at the bank across the street. She worked there, she liked it, and she thought I would too. So I bought a fancy interview outfit, updated my resume, and found myself hired for a new branch about 20 minutes away.

This was my destiny (I told myself while spending far too money much on office-appropriate wear.) Now, I was going to be successful. (I repeated, realizing within a week on the job that I’d made a mistake.) I didn’t need retail. (I missed it.) Especially when I was about to become my family’s first financial wizard. (My credit card was maxed out on new work outfits).

I lasted two months at the bank before crawling back to the mall, asking my manager if I could work the evenings I wasn’t scheduled to close the bank. I needed laughter. I needed camaraderie. I missed being able to reference The Office (it was 2007) and using my outdoor voice in an indoor setting. Also, I needed the money: I’d gotten into university after upgrading my marks and was heading back to school in September 2008.

Plus, a discount on jeans is never a bad thing.

I grew up in a blue collar family. My mom and dad kept me clothed, fed, housed, and loved, but we didn’t holiday (aside from day trips), buy big ticket items, or toss around terms like “investments” (and I still don’t really know how they work.) Which was fine by me: the only “rich” person I knew growing up was the daughter of the man who owned the company my grandpa once worked for, and all of us were in awe of the fact that her house sat on top of a hill. I went to public school, knew I’d have to pay for university myself, and shopped knowing whatever I bought was also on me. Which is how I landed in credit card debt at 19, 20, and 21. High off the power of my first Visa, I’d maxed it out on low-rise bootcut jeans and logo hoodies, so working at both the bank and the mall promised to solve all my problems: one paycheck could go towards minimum payments, the other would go to tuition, and I’d leave a certain amount for “regular spending.” Easy.

But nothing’s easy when you would rather walk into the sea than go to work. I’d started at the bank in September 2007, and by December I dreaded starting my shifts. But not because of my coworkers (most of them were so lovely), but because of what the job entailed: as a teller, you have to sell credit and products to customers. And I didn’t want to. First, because I hated my job (and didn’t want to do anything), and second, because it felt gross selling credit to people who didn’t want it (especially when I barely had any left to my own name). I’d hear myself talking rates and limits and minimum payments, and felt like a hypocrite. Especially since I not only had no idea what I was talking about, but because as an irresponsible credit user myself, I didn’t care. I felt like I was in the financial bell jar.

Which was made worse because aside from my inability to move product, I was really good at everything else. I was good at the admin work, good at talking to customers, good at organizing large sums of money (despite being nervous and scared around it constantly), and good at navigating our computer system. And that would’ve been fine, had I worked with a supervisor I actually liked working with: instead, I worked with a supervisor whose moods changed on a dime, leading to hours spent walking on eggshells and/or forcing ourselves to laugh at bad jokes, in hopes of preventing outbursts later on.

Of course, at 30 I would’ve handled it better. I would’ve reminded myself that this job was funding my future and that I was lucky to have it and that every hour of pay was closer to the end of my stint there. But I was 22. So instead of logic or rationality, I just checked out. I started wearing the same outfits every day, started snapping back at my temperamental boss and any/all angry customers, and slowly morphed into Jim from The Office without the camera to mug to or compelling love interest (minus the mortgage expert who lived with his girlfriend — but he wasn’t interested). And after a while, my sales were so bad it was branch legend: I was the first teller to hit -30% revenue, making my future there a near-impossibility.

So I quit before I got fired. Realizing I’d rather make money where I felt good about my job, my coworkers, and who I was at that job, I realized I’d rather work more hours for less pay than work under someone who wouldn’t let me leave a shift early to beat a blizzard. (Which, for the record, I almost got stuck in.)

“It’s not who you are,” my supervisor’s supervisor said in response to my two weeks’ notice. “You’re just being true to yourself.”

Which, ironically, was the most valuable lesson I learned when working at a financial institution — a place built entirely on numbers and business and logic and money and affluence. And arguably, it was also the only lesson. I clung to that idea so tightly — the idea that I was figuring out who I was, that I had to make mistakes, that I had to learn hard lessons, that I had to live messily and recklessly — that after saving for tuition, I ended up racking up even more debt in the wake of starting school. And I eventually dropped out again.

Which were also lessons I had to learn. So while money can certainly make things easier, it doesn’t always lead to fulfillment. Or answer the questions that wake you up in the middle of the night. I may have had to work more shifts at the mall than is healthy for most people (and then dig myself out of a literal money pit a few years later), but money — whether counting it in the vault or trying to convince people to spend more to make your sales goal for the month — cannot buy you happiness. Not when you’re just wearing the same outfit to work out of spite, anyway.

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How to Find Purpose in Your Job

It’s time to look forward to going into work

No one is going to give you the definition of a truly meaningful life. We are simply invited, driven or compelled to create our own.

What does this mean when it comes to our jobs? Presumably, our jobs are there to provide the means of satisfying the first rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter and protection.

What about those higher rungs, the ones that show the mind we can step outside of simply the need to survive?

What about those moments of inspiration and connection with others that speak directly to our core as human beings? Is it even possible to integrate these things into our work life?

To live a meaningful life is to live free from mindless compliance.?51% of American workers do not feel engaged at work. How do we find a job, or convert an existing job, into one that suits our life purpose and brings us joy rather than the bare minimum? How do we stay inspired even while working a job that isn?t our true calling?

Part of the journey to a more prosperous life (and wallet) means reframing the many actions we take on a daily basis. This includes the hours we spend at work. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. When time is allocated carefully, we can calibrate our lives into a joyful balance of work, play and fulfillment.

The 4 Pillars Of Workplace Happiness

Here are?4 pillars that promote workplace happiness, along with some great examples of mission-driven brands that give purpose to work by giving back to their employees and to the world in big ways.

Well-Being

The way we feel affects our performance at work. One of the first things we can do to ensure a more pleasant workplace experience is to keep the components of internal wellness in check.

It doesn?t have to be complicated. Implement a moment of gratitude first thing in the AM. Take a small pause to listen to the birds sing. Fresh food, enough sleep and moderate exercise are incubators of happiness. When your body budget is in balance, your mind can become expansive.

An expansive mind cultivates resilience, optimism, achievement and pride in one’s work. We have more control over these states than we realize. Trick your brain into a state of optimism by smiling, even if you don’t feel like it. Because of emotion contagion, these ‘good vibes’ will spill onto everyone around you, elevating the work environment. It’s a win win.

Engagement

Going to work should feel like an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to your job and world alike. When we feel engaged with our job, we feel as though we are being useful, encouraged to challenge ourselves, and able to help others.

When an employee loves the work they do, the whole office feels it too. Autonomy, learning opportunities, performance feedback and use of strengths are all important parts to the happiness equation at work. Even if you are stuck in a cubicle all day bored out of your mind, figure out ways to engage authentically with your work by looking at each task with curiosity. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Pro-tip: Even if you feel ?stuck? in a job you dislike, take small actions steps daily to get you closer to your dream job. It could be something as simple as updating your resume or something more substanscial, like?taking night classes in a subject that fascinates your mind.

Alignment

Your work culture plays a pivotal role in overall job performance and happiness levels. Social elements such as trust and support from supervisors, the competency of fellow co-workers, cultural values and teamwork are all predictors of feeling purposeful at work. Having a trusted circle of friends at work is an incredible source of energy and community.

Pro-tip: Always go with your gut and ask yourself ?how do I feel?? after each day of work. Are you around people that lift you up or tear you down with gossip, or distrust? Considering the lengthy hours we spend in a workplace, the people we surround ourselves with effect the very cells of our bodies. Be wary of bad company and stick close to those who promote a kinder environment.

Satisfaction

Having a stable job and healthy working conditions is paramount to finding your purpose. This include the nitty-gritty like salary and benefits, job stability, ergonomics, respect, fairness, and work-life-harmony. Simply put, choose a job that you would enjoy. While the journey to a more desired place of work often requires stepping stones that are not your dream job, know that these building blocks are helping you reach your long-term goals.

Pro-tip: While you are on the road to realizing your dream job, consider taking on side jobs (aka side hustles) to make some extra money and explore other outlets that could help you hone in on our long term purpose. This could entail selling items on Ebay or even renting your spare room on Airbnb. Who knows what could happen!

Companies That Are Doing It Right

Let?s take a look at some conscious companies who provide positive work environments for people and planet.
  • Companies such as Costco Wholesale Corporation are focused on employee care. ?In fact, this warehouse retailer has become well-known for its above average pay ($13.50 per hour.) Better yet, their CEO James Senegal believes that ?paying your employees well is not only the right thing to do, but it makes for good business.? He’s not the only CEO who thinks investing in people is a smart money move.
  • Nike created a new approach to move past old supply chain transgressions with their ?responsible competitiveness? model. They now aim to focus on the root causes of labor exploitation. They also desire to bring about systemic change to further prevent such abuses. With Nike?s new philosophy, they have become an advocate for improving labor conditions and have also moved to healthier, long-term supplier relationships as well.
  • Patagonia?is an outdoor clothing company, a?BCorp and a trailblazer when it comes to using business as a force for good in the world. They donated their entire $10 million Black Friday revenue towards saving the planet and have one the highest employee satisfaction ratings around.
  • Whole Foods is an excellent example of a company that maintains meaningful relationships with the community in which it operates. They hold ?5% days? where the store will donate 5% of net sales to a local charity, offer loans to local suppliers, and promote high environmental standards across its many stores.
  • Feed was founded by Lauren Bush 9 years ago after her travels across the word. She found a huge connection between nutrition levels and academic and economic performance in communities. For every product sold from Feed, there is a number stamp on it that represents the amount of meals or micronutrient packets provided to children in need around the world.
  • TerraCyle takes recycling to the next level. They create national “upcycling” programs that help companies re-purpose materials that would normally not be recycled. Their goal:?prevent waste from ending up in landfills, incinerators, and our oceans.

Purpose follows passion, passion follows purpose

Achieving fulfillment in your career is no overnight endeavor. As with any worthwhile feat, a meaningful job experience requires research, discipline and dedication.

Just as eating well, sleeping well, and exercising are important, so is the duty to investigate a work experience that is a living reflection of your long-term goals.

It?s not an easy road, but don?t be discouraged?there are thousands of other people who have blazed trails for us to follow. The most important part is to just begin.


Photo credit:?Aleksandr Ledogorov

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