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January 25, 2016

By Wes Claudio



Riding a crowded Chicago L train and searching for distractions on my phone, I am suddenly struck by my fellow commuters. There are people of all ages and backgrounds, some clad in three-piece suits while others sport outfits even Mark Zuckerberg might find a bit casual. Some have ear buds in, others are reading their Kindles, watching movies, sleeping (thankfully, no one is snoring today), playing games or just zoning out. But many share that commuter evening face: weary and anxious to put the workday behind them.

I can’t help but wonder, why? Why did these people wake up today to go to work? Do they love their jobs or just need the money? Why do they commute from the suburbs? Do they find fulfilment in what they do, or do they hate their jobs?

A different kind of romance

To me, love and work are closely related. What feelings do we have when we are in love? Happiness. Joy. Pride. A sense of being significant, like we matter to someone. Good enough, when maybe we haven’t always felt that way. What feelings do we get from work? Happiness, joy, pride, feeling significant, like we can make a difference. Feeling good enough when maybe we haven’t before. Both love and work can also make us feel sadness, pain and like we aren’t good enough.

But it’s all too easy to lose those deep emotions our work can makes us feel. I think rekindling the romance with our careers can start with Simon Sineks’ principle: First consider thewhy and then the what. Because only when you know why you want to do something, can you inspire change, achieve greatness and truly be different—things that will make you feel fulfilled and happy. But most people start with the what then go to the how and sometimes make it to the why.

How does this play out in real life? Do people often talk about why they do or what they do? My 16 years of experience as a recruiter has lead me to a simple answer: no. The more common thing you hear is people saying what they do: I am VP of sales. I am a bartender. I am a developer. If the conversation goes further they will tell you how they do what they do: I work in New York City for ABC Company, overseeing a team of 26 sales people across the U.S. and Canada selling widgets. 

My guess is this conversation sounds very familiar—and rather dull—to you. We’ve all heard it during interviews, cocktail parties, meetings, lunches and pretty much any time you put two or more strangers together.

If you move the conversation to a different place, what might happen? “The widget I am selling allows people the ability to better manage their money. When I found out about this product I knew I wanted to sell it because I once filed for bankruptcy and didn’t want anyone to have to go through this experience. Through my work, I am making a difference in people’s lives by helping them avoid the pitfalls I experienced. My passion to do this has given me the opportunity to lead a sales team of 26 people who help impact more people’s personal financial stability and wealth by selling our product. Did I mention I am the VP of Sales for ABC company?”

That passion, conviction and commitment to why this person does what they do makes me want to hear more about their work. It makes me think the daily routine is not so routine for them. Their work has purpose and meaning because of the why.

Strong romantic relationships sustain the tests of time because partners continue to focus on why they fell in love and why they stayed together. Just like romantic relationships, our relationship with our work can fall into a rut. But if we remember the why— in our love lives and our work lives—our days will be filled with doing things we are committed to, passionate about and that bring us great joy. And this can ennoble simple tasks, like doing dishes or making a daily commute.

Here’s to more of us understanding our why for working and sharing it with those around us. Let’s inspire the next great generation of workers by bringing more meaning and purpose into our work lives by remembering why we do what we do. 

Wes Claudio is a long-time IT recruiter who helped build the TEKsystems Consultant Retention Program and now leads delivery/recruiting operations in downtown Chicago. He believes jobs help give purpose to people’s lives and is passionate about helping clients achieve fulfillment through meaningful careers. In his spare time, Wes enjoys reading, running and being an active dad participating in a variety of activities with his three kids.

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