Last week, I turned in my resignation from my day job. It was a good decision, allowing me to exit gracefully on my own terms rather than stay in a situation that would become more and more of a poor fit over time. At this point, it feels more like an opportunity – the kick in the pants we needed to move our family forward into the next adventure. However, it does mean that I have some serious work to do in order to find that next adventure.
For the foreseeable future, my kids are going to continue to need shoes, daily meals, and an education, so a day job is probably a good thing to pursue. However, I have the luxury of a little bit of breathing room to allow myself to really reflect on what I want to do in my professional life. After some serious navel-gazing and soul-searching, I boiled my passions and personal preferences down into a single sentence. I consider it something like a personal vocational manifesto:
I want to create or accomplish something authentic that impacts people and leaves them feeling happier, enriched, or more positive about the world in which we live.
When I start looking for new opportunities for myself and my family, I can measure those opportunities against my manifesto. I can look at each opportunity and ask myself “How well does this opportunity score on these goals?” While there is no perfect job for anyone, a personal vocational manifesto can help you clarify what is important to you and come closer to finding a job that truly fits.
Here is my “scorecard” for evaluating opportunities and how they measure up against my own manifesto:
When I was a teenager, I would say that I wanted to “make neat stuff.” Twenty-five years later, that hasn’t changed much. I want to create. I love imagining possibilities or making something new. It doesn’t matter if it is a piece of art, a work of fiction, a design, an experience, a business, an organization, or a plan. I just have to create.
If I can’t create something, then I want to accomplish something. I don’t want to be the person that merely monitors or implements other people’s decisions. I want to be in the thick of it where decisions are made and things get done.
I want to be able to point to something and say “I did that.” Again, it can be an object, a design, an experience, or a system. I just want to be able to claim it as mine, even if it’s only to myself.
Whatever I do, it has to be real. If I’m going to promote a company or organization’s ideals or products, then I have to believe in them. I can’t shill for a paycheck.
I want to do something that has a direct impact on people. I don’t want to be so far removed from the beneficiaries of my work that it feels as though my efforts are wasted.
I want my work to have a direct relationship with the lives of others, even if the work itself is not done in direct contact with them. A job entitled “Government Regulation Documentation Compliance Officer” is probably not going to be a very good fit for me.
It doesn’t look like I’m destined to cure cancer or develop cold fusion energy sources. In the absence of something significant, I’ll go for something fun. Finding joy in life is undervalued, but I believe it is important. I’d be thrilled to be helping other people find some happiness or joy in life.
I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. I want the work that I do to improve people’s lives, making them feel as though they have grown or gained something from the results of my work.
If the work that I do doesn’t make people feel better about themselves or their lives, then I want it to make the world a better place. If work doesn’t improve other people’s lives or the world as a whole, then it has no real value to me.
There it is. That is the lens through which I am going to look at my next adventure. Every opportunity I find will be measured against that manifesto to see if it has value to me.
What is your vocational manifesto? If you haven’t written one, give it a try. I’d be interested to read it.