It’s hard to discuss career these days without hearing buzzwords like “purpose” and “passion.” If you’re wondering how to fit those concepts into your own job search and career exploration, you’re not alone. Guest blogger Simone N. Sneed took some time to find her purpose, but now as Director of Development & External Affairs at Inwood House and Founder & CEO of Catching Brilliance, she’s got what she calls “the best gig out there.” Simone shares some of her hard-earned lessons about what it means to have a meaningful career.
I have some great news for you. If you’re reading this and you have no idea what your “purpose” is, you’re going to be okay.
When I was in college, no one was discussing purpose or meaning at work. At least not in the way that it’s discussed now. The biggest question that I asked myself each year was, “What am I interested in?” If it was a requirement to figure out my life’s purpose when I was a sophomore in college, I think that many of us, myself included, may have failed.
The truth is, the development of purpose and of meaning is a process that happens when you make intentional decisions in your life to the best of your ability. The path that unfolds over time only reveals itself over time, which is a gift.
I graduated from college nearly a decade ago and I feel both fortunate and proud to say that my career and the work I do in the world is deeply meaningful to me. Building the capacity of individual women and girls to be the creators of solutions in their communities and helping the institutions that serve them maximize their resources makes my heart light up.
The path here wasn’t always as clear and crisp as it is now; however, there are five lessons that I know have transformed my career path and my life thus far.
1. Blossom Where You Are Planted
I have always interpreted this to mean life your life to the fullest, and no matter where you find yourself, create value in that moment. More simply put, become a solution-oriented person who chooses happiness. Sometimes, we find ourselves in environments that we don’t appreciate. When I left my graduate program, I took a part-time job (in addition to my full-time job) scooping ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s. While crawling on my hands and knees cleaning up spilled chocolate syrup, I was not thinking about blossoming. I was thinking about disinfectant and how I ended up there. That said, in the six months that I worked that job, I gained significant clarity about how to advocate for myself, how to manage up, and ultimately, how to be a value add, no matter the circumstance. These lessons were transformational later in my life.
2. Turn Mistakes Into Lessons
It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, mistakes are more valuable than you could ever imagine. As often as people say this, I think that few of us really take it to heart. When I was in high school, I sang in our school choir. One day, my choir director, Mr. Valerio, in the midst of conducting stopped and told us all that we were being too meek. He told us that in life and in choir, it was better to sing the wrong note loudly than not to sing at all. I took his advice and as we began rehearsing again, I did my best to hit the soprano note full force, only to have the note come out entirely wrong. He stopped again and pointed at me and said he was so glad I sang so loud. In becoming visible, I could grow and evolve through critique and modification. The ability to make a “mistake” and learn from it not only transforms your mistakes into lessons, but it transforms your life into an adventure.
3. Acknowledge And Accept Your Knowing
When I was eight years old, I started journaling. I have now been journaling for over 20 years and through my daily self reflections, I can say that I knew early on in my life that I was here to have an impact and leave this world better than I found it. I never questioned this and instead focused my time on learning to listen to my knowing and allowing the places where my heart felt open to be the guide to the choices that I make. Whether or not you journal, each of us has some idea about who we need to be in this world. Sometimes it’s a far off goal that has to do with our career or even as simple as knowing you’re meant to be a great best friend to someone. Whenever possible, I advocate for letting your knowing be your guide.
4. Build a Community of People You Can Trust
Even if you are able to follow your instincts towards building a life and career with meaning, we are not in this life alone. We are not only social creatures; we are collaborative. In working together and being in community, ideas and thoughts have an opportunity to be validated or adjusted. Building a trust community of friends is common, however applying the same practice to your professional life allows you to deepen the experience of your work tremendously. When you have people you can trust in your work life, you have a beautiful opportunity for candid feedback and support in holding yourself accountable to the path that you are on.
5. Make Sure You’re Laughing
Last, but certainly not least, I believe in laughter. I believe in fun. I believe in joy. Often times, when people start discussing meaningful careers (which can be corporate, non-profit, government, etc.) the conversation quickly becomes serious. As if the hallmark of a meaningful career is martyrdom. I couldn’t disagree more. In answering the call to do whatever work you feel compelled to do, laughter is the light that lets you know you’re on the right track.
At the end of the day, a meaningful career is something that you build over time by living with intention each day and each moment.
Image courtesy of Simone N. Sneed
Simone N. Sneed is a social entrepreneur and advocate for women and girls. She is dedicated to increasing the capacity of individual women and girls and the institutions that support them. Simone is the Director of Development & External Affairs at Inwood House and the Founder & CEO of Catching Brilliance. You can follow her on twitter @catchbrilliance or visit her at www.simonensneed.com.