Joining a company for the right vs the wrong reasons will make a huge difference to your satisfaction at work and life in general. Read on to find out why a simple but fundamental misunderstanding about work leads to so much discomfort around your work life.
Tired of your job?
Are you wandering why you feel little motivation for your job? Does working tire you out so much it gets hard to enjoy your free time? Is the thought ‘I hate my job’ constantly circulating in your brain?
Maybe you have been thinking about what work actually is all wrong. Here is an alternative and more realistic perspective to achieve happiness in the workplace and thus a more fulfilling life.
Lets face it. Work is a huge part of our lives. Most of our social interactions are during work. Most of our energy and waking hours are used for work. It is absolutely crucial to get this part of your life right if you want to have any shot at a well rounded and fulfilling life. However, work is also the part of life that most commonly leads to discomfort and dissatisfaction, as most people stuggle to find a job they are happy with. One often overlooked cause of this is a fundamentally wrong outlook on what work actually is and what can be expected from it.
What is Work, really?
The flawed but common view
So to start this discussion, here is how people commonly view work:
I hate my job. I give you time and effort, you give me money. I don’t want to be here and I really don’t want to work for you, but I do it because I need you to give me some money. And while we are at it, please give me a good work-life-balance and good career perspectives too. Just don’t expect me to put in too much of an effort.
So whats so wrong about this? Isn’t it normal to go for the most output for minimum input? Isn’t that human nature?
If you view it this way, work really does feel like work and nothing else. You might be lucky and have pleasent coworkers and reasonable working hours, but at the end of the day it is still just work. It is something you do not want to do, but you do it because someone pays you for it and you need the money. This perspective on work is kind off selfish. You only do it because you want to get something out of it. Basically, you want the company to work for you instead of you wanting to work for the company. This point of view entirely misses the point of what a company actually is and thus how you should view your role in it.
A new Perspective
So if work is not something you regrettably have to do to make money, what is it?
I am not a big fan of the german language, but in this case it clearly paints a better picture than its english counterpart. For starters, the german word for job actually comes from the word “a calling”. Furthermore, the german word for company can be translated as “a cause”. These words more accurately describe what the thing we call work today was originally intended to be. Essentially, every company is a collective of people that come together to pursue a certain cause. And each persons job is to help in the pursuit of that cause.
If you think about it this way, it becomes clear why the way most people regard work nowadays is counterproductive and frequently leads to a very noticable rift between employer and employee. On a sidenote: This is most prevalent in people from generations Y and Z. For some reason, we have a false and completely unfunded sense of entitlement in just about every aspect of life. In essense, we expect to receive without being willing to give. We want a job with good pay, good career perspectives, flexible working hours and cool team events while only being willing to put in a bare minimum effort. Why the current generations have ended up this way is surprisingly understandable and a very interesting discussion indeed, but not in the scope of this article.
Understand the misunderstanding
So lets get back on topic: Companies basically exist to fulfill a cause or a purpose and they are looking for people eager to help them along. But these people are not looking at it from that perspective. They are not looking to join a cause and help and support it with their contributions. They are looking for a place they can extract the most benefit from while putting in the least amount of input possible. Taking into account these very conflicting interests it becomes clear where the rift between employer and employee comes from. While the people running the businesses complain about the complete lack of motivation and accountbility of the young employees they hire, these employees are confused about why their bosses are so serious about their job thinking “Aren’t we all just here to get paid and go home?”.
For the time being, lets ignore who is more in the right and who is more in the wrong. Ofcourse there are always two sides to a coin and a lot more sides to a complex issue like this. But lets focus on the employees perspective for now and on what people who are consistently discontent with their work life can do to improve it. It is important to have a complete shift away from that toxic mindset of getting as much as possible from the company while giving little to no effort. Be realistic: Why would anyone hire you over a person who is willing to put in a decent effort?
What to do about It?
So lets get to the point: Whether you are a millenial or generation Z or really any other generation, what are some practical tips you can use to go about your career and generally find more happiness and less discomfort in it?
A shift in mindset
As mentioned before, the key thing that has to happen is a complete shift in mindset. Get away from viewing work as something you are forced to do in order to get some of the things you need (ie a salary). That view will simply never lead to a satisfying work environment. Neither for you, nor for your employer.
Instead, view companies as causes you can apply to join and help out on. When looking at a company, try to figure out exactly what this company is doing and what it stands for at its core. Then ask yourself if this is a cause that you want to help and support. If the answer is yes, apply. If it is no, be honest and move on. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a company this way and I will go more in depth about this in the next article. For now, just adopt the mindset of you helping out on a cause instead of you trying to use a company primarily for your own advantage.
How this will help you
There are a few things that will happen when you adopt this mindset. First and foremost you will not view each hour spent at work as a waste of time. Each hour spent at work will be an hour used to support a cause that you believe in at some level. This alone will already put you more at ease and remove a lot of the discomfort you feel about working. On the same note, the occasional overtime that you will inevitably need to work every once in a while will be a lot more bearable.
If you come to work aiming to help the cause along you will simply perform better, even though you feel less stressed. You will address issues you see, instead of ignoring them to avoid work. You will proactively improve the workplace by fixing inefficiencies you see in processes. You will feel more connected to the other employees, because you see them as partners of the same cause and not as generic coworkers. Your relationships with your supperiors will increase immensly. They will see you as an important participant of the cause who is eager to support. It might mean you occasionally work a little longer than when your aim was solely to minimize your effort, but you will get repayed for this in some shape or form almost certainly. Your employer will be a lot more willing to show more flexibility to ensure you are a happy camper. He or she will be less stingy when it comes to promotions and salary increases and overall, your experience at work and your resulting quality of life will be a much more positive one.
Give and receive
Keep in mind however that this does not mean you should give up everything for the company. Ofcourse you should have healhy work-life-balance. Companies should want their employees to have this, else it will be impossible for them to feel motivated for work over a long period of time, no matter how strongly they identify with the companies cause. And if you go to work with the right attitude, you will be surprised how the company will be eager to keep you happy and thus around. Just keep in mind that first you have to give in order to recive.
Increased ownership of your contribution
Besides more strongly identifying with your company and finding more enjoyment in your labor, there is another benefit to taking this point of view that is equally profound and important. Since you are now joining a cause in order to help it, you must ask yourself the following question: How can i help it?
A popular cause will naturally attract a lot of people who will want to join in and support, but the company will not have the money or the need for every single one of them. So they will only hire those people who they feel will help them the best and most equivalently to their needs and financial resources.
So if you are trying to find your place in the working world, it is important to develop yourself in a way that you can provide a lot of help to causes you believe in. In other words, it is important you learn helpful skills, whether they are soft or hard. This is where education comes in. It is crucial to find a skill or a field of knowledge that offers a good overlap between where your interests lie, where your strengths lie and whether or not it is a sought after skill.
So to sum up: Think about the work market as a collection of causes that you can help. Then ask yourself which causes you want to help, and how you can help them. Learn skills you can support with and off you go!
This is a very simple shift in mindset that is guranteed to improve your life, especially if you adopt it early on. Imagine a world in which you have learned a skill that you enjoy doing and you can use it daily to help a cause you belive in. Ofcourse there will be good times and bad times, but the good ones will be really good and the bad ones will not really be all that bad.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying this is an easy state to achieve. It requires a lot of effort spent on learning and a lot of trial and error in finding a situation that is really right for you. But knowing this dynamic will help you put your current situation into context and understand why it might feel the way it does. And once you start applying this way of thinking and you find a situation that really works for you as much as you work for it, you can be sure to have made a massive gain in life satisfaction.
Last note: These two questions of which cause to help and how to help it might be simple to ask, but not easy to answer. So In my next articles I will discuss how to identify good causes or companies that suit you, as well as how to identify in what way you yourself can best support them.