On Finding Meaningful Work

Let’s face it, searching for meaningful and sustainable work is a long and arduous endeavor that requires patience and stick-to-itiveness. In the end, finding your place in the world of work is very much dependent on serendipity.  This comes from a wide range of experiences I have had hunting for that often elusive perfect job that both pays well and gets you enthusiastically out of bed each morning.

Like many people, I have rewritten and sent off resume and resume and cover letter after cover letter to hundreds, maybe even more than 1,000, potential employers. These exercises have always been a numbers and luck game.

Previous to graduating from college, I held various and numerous part-time and full-time jobs for anywhere from a few months to several years as a bartender, house painter, hotel night auditor and desk clerk, room-service waiter, silk screener, trophy maker, assembly-line automaton, delivery person, English tutor, graphic designer, marketing assistant, senior copywriter, public relations director, interning feature writer, and several other jobs that are not worth listing.

After graduating from college with honors and an internship under my belt, along with a string of jobs I held during my undergraduate years that helped pay my own way through college – both related and unrelated to my goal of become a professional writer – there were a few times when I got lucky and was hired by respectable institutions and companies in the field of marketing and public relations. These jobs came with all the great benefits one would expect from a professional position, including paid health insurance, vacation time, matching 401K plans, sick leave, etc.

Then, of course, being the independent person that I am, none of these jobs ever really worked out for me as a person. I simply was not a team player, and I often was at odds with management’s way of doing things. In addition, being in marketing and public relations often made me feel inauthentic because I was being forced to promote the company’s way of thinking, which oftentimes I felt was dishonest.

I did stay at one well-paid and seemingly important marketing-director position for a manufacturing company for about 18 months, the longest fully employed, professional, adult, post-college job I have ever experienced in my life.

In short, the world of work basically sucks, unless you can figure out how to be self-employed – that, at least, has been my experience, as I could never quite find enjoyable work, other than work generated on my own. I was never lucky enough to find an outside job in which I did not have to report to one higher up or another who was not a complete jerk.

While I am obviously a strong proponent for self-employment, I am not so foolish to believe that it’s for everyone. If, however, you decide to pursue a career in any field in which you have to work for a specific institution or company, I strongly suggest you doggedly work your way up as high as you possibly can to the top of the food chain, so that you become the person who directs things and has control. This way you will not be forced into dealing with the people above you, who, for the most part, are often incompetent and egocentric. I know that is a fairly large generalization that is often not true. However, if you simply google “bad bosses,” you will see the prevalence of this dismal state of affairs – and I’m not being facetious.

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