You're Creating a Better World at Work, Remember?

In a recent post, I discussed the tendency of many college students to wait for a social or environmental cause to find them. I argue that’s not how finding a cause works. We have to get involved in something to become passionate about it. If you read it, you probably came to the following conclusion: Ryan wants me to take action. And that was pretty much the point.

But then I started thinking about my own life. Between the amount of time I dedicate to work, writing this blog and the daily tasks of life, I don’t have much spare time. My initial reaction was that I could shift time away from what I’m already doing in order to focus on causes that are really important to me. But then it dawned on me, isn’t that already exactly what I’m doing by working for a mission-driven organization? I’ve already aligned my career with a cause that’s important to me. Duh!

When I wrote about getting more involved in social and environmental causes, it was with the college student or traditional professional in mind. But we’re mission driven millennials! Many of us already align the largest block of our time – our jobs - to causes we deeply care about. And if you’re anything like me, you consistently discount that fact.

I’ve been working to “create a better world through business principles” at the Smith School of Business for about a year and a half now and there are times when I struggle to connect that vision with what I do every day. Updating excel files, coordinating event logistics, and responding to email doesn’t feel like creating a better world. It turns out my impact job is still a job.

So how can we reconnect with the causes and passions that brought us to the work we do? Hopefully at this point I’ve made it clear that I don’t have all the answers. But, I have found couple tactics that are working for me.

Connect your organization’s vision and mission directly to work you do. Sometimes I lose track of what exactly my role as a community engagement manager has to do with “creating a better world through business principles.” So I took some time to think about what I do and how it connects to the mission. I engage with students about social enterprise and corporate responsibility. That engagement leads to increased knowledge and stronger skills in those areas. Students can then use that knowledge and skill set to work in or create a company that’s making the world a better place. Just thinking about that process gets me all excited! (Or maybe that’s just the coffee…)

Keep the rewarding work part of your daily workflow. Engaging with students is a big part of my job, but it certainly isn’t all of it. I think most of us have realized that we don't always get to do the exciting work (if you haven’t, I hate to be the one to break it you). But that doesn't mean we can't do something exciting every day. I’ve been more conscious recently to keep student engagement part of my daily workflow. Whether it’s sharing a job description, chatting with a student or giving a presentation, I make sure I’m doing at least one task a day that I can get excited about.

Remind yourself regularly of why you’re there. Two weeks ago I was talking about work with a friend and he commented, “Wow, you’re creating the future leaders of our space.” Wait, what? Am I actually doing that? Because if I am, that sounds pretty amazing. The next day I wrote that on my white board at work and try to look at it almost daily. I try to come back to my “why” as often as I can and it usually gives me the boost I need.

These are the tactics that are working for me at the moment (Actually, working a little too well. I need to revisit my work / life balance posts). I’d love to hear about what works for you. How are you finding or reminding yourself of your passion for the work you do?