Why Do You Work?

Job Arial view

Which is more important to you: time or money?


Why do you work? To be successful, to maintain a certain standard of living, to find your identity and purpose, or for some other reason?


I decided in 2nd grade that I was going to be an engineer. My reasons were varied and diverse:

  • My dad was an engineer, and I wanted to be like him.
  • I enjoyed math and science; problem solving was a fun hobby for me. I was always up for a mental challenge.
  • Smart people become engineers, and I wanted to be thought of as smart and successful.
  • I liked objective subjects, where no one could give me a bad grade without being able to justify their actions (like when I got a C on my first history paper because my teacher “just didn’t think it was well written” even though all of my facts were accurate).

Having earned an engineering degree and having worked at a major oil company for seven years now, I have come to find that working in the business world is not all that I imagined.

  • Though my dad was an engineer, he worked at a small company where he rose through the ranks and set the tone for a culture that appreciated creative problem solving and new ideas. This is not the case at a Major. When my dad’s little company got bought out by a giant, he disliked his once enjoyable career as much as I do now. Although my company recruits creative, self-motivated, intelligent individuals, it takes those brilliant minds and sticks them deep within the confines of The Machine, where they are no more than a cog in the wheel, and all individual thought is not only stifled but punished.
  • Problem solving is fun when dealing with a closed set – like an Agatha Christie murder mystery where all of the suspects are snowed in to a log cabin, minimizing unforeseen variables. But the real world is messy, and there are an infinite number of variables that are impossible to control or calculate into a solution. This is significantly less fun than the problem sets I solved for fun as a kid.
  • As I have written about multiple times, simply having an engineering degree – and even being a well spoken and intelligent person – does not mean that people will think you are smart and successful. My boss thinks I’m incompetent just because our working styles don’t align.
  • Although in school, math homework has a right or wrong answer, in Corporate America, workers get graded based on subjective opinions and perceptions, many of which are more a reflection of the manager than the employee being evaluated.

While our parents worked primarily to earn a living, Millennials are generally driven by a need for purpose and identity; to find meaning in their work. I hate to ever be a part of the crowd, but of late, I find myself fitting the generalization. Money is not much of a motivator for me. At this stage of life – having experienced all that I have at the hands of Corporate America – I would rather earn less and be more fulfilled in my work. Which is why I have started working on my Teaching Certification in the hopes of teaching junior high math.

Some fellow Christians will tell me (and have told me) that I should find my identity in Christ and not in my job. That’s true, but that’s no reason to stay at a miserable job. The bible says in Ecclesiastes that “there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work” (2:24), and again, that “that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work” (3:22).

Some lower-income friends will tell me (and have told me) that money is not a motivator now because I’ve never had to go without. While that may be true, I imagine there is a lot of character development to be had from learning to restrict spending as a result of voluntarily taking a pay cut.

Some friends will tell me (and have told me) that every job will have its frustrations and disappointments. While I acknowledge that to be true, I also believe that – if every job has its challenges, and every work environment has a couple of “difficult personalities” to deal with – I may as well enjoy the work itself. I’ve spent seven years not enjoying my workload in addition to dealing with difficult people.

There have been countless closed doors over the past seven years of trying to change careers. But I’m prayerfully considering yet another attempt at a new career path, and hopefully God sees fit to swing the right door wide open, whether it’s teaching or something else I have yet to even consider.

I’m hoping it’s teaching though. After all, teachers have the best blogging material.

Authentically Aurora

5 thoughts on “Why Do You Work?

  1. Identity is such a complex reality. Of course your identity is in Christ, but you are created to serve Christ by helping others–and right now your efforts to do so are being frustrated by the wrong supervisor and the wrong environment. You enjoy teaching. Others regard you as a good teacher. You see the need for teachers. I say: get your certificate and teach! Of course there will be days that you would rather stay home and not face the classroom. Of course at times you will wonder if you made the right decision. Life is like that in this world. But I think you will be awesome teaching math to junior high students. Go for it, Aurora! J.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, J. I’ve been getting a lot of positive messaging around teaching lately. I volunteered with some high school kids this weekend, and one of the other leaders sent me a text later: “You are so good at it, with the kids and youth. I mean it! I can’t get over the convo with the girl in kids ministry. I think that’s a gift you have (helping people understand God’s words). You did it with the youth today too! That’s so cool! Basically, I just love you girl!” — super sweet and encouraging!


  2. I like that you are trying to do whatever it takes to further your career or more specifically find what you will enjoy what you want to do. I know you love math and teaching it to kids would also bring you great joy. Good luck at whatever you do, because I know you will be great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ben. You’re such a good encourager! I’ve been getting some nice positive reinforcement the more I pursue teaching. I just got a really sweet text from one of my friends about when I volunteered with high schoolers last week:
      “You are so good at it, with the kids and youth. I mean it! I can’t get over the convo with the girl in kids ministry. I think that’s a gift you have (helping people understand God’s words). You did it with the youth today too! That’s so cool! Basically, I just love you girl!” 😀


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