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

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Car Care

Car CareMuch of life is lived in the mundane, but the moments that hold the power to be impactful tend to also have the power to be intensely positive or intensely negative. And the way we (or others!) respond to situations can greatly impact the tone and outcome of those significant moments.

A few months ago, I had to take my BMW in for repair. The collision center I used did a great job providing me daily updates, offering multiple repair options complete with pricing details for each and even finishing the repair job early. They also coordinated with a nearby rental car company and shuttled me over to make my transition as easy as possible.

When I went to pick up my car, the owner – an attractive, young Armenian man named Hovik – came to personally shake my hand and wish me well. He looked a bit familiar, but I was shocked when he said, “Hey! We live in the same apartment complex. I see you in the gym there all the time.”

I had no recollection of noticing him in the gym (shame on me; he’s gorgeous), but sure enough, I’ve seen him there several times since he worked on my car. During one of our gym interactions, Hovik asked me to fill out a customer survey, which I did happily; his collision center provided the best customer service I’ve ever had. Apparently my positive feedback caused them to be awarded some kind of elite diamond-encrusted platinum status or something, because Hovik sent me a text a week later thanking me for completing the survey and telling me that I could bring my car in for a full detail any time, on the house, as a way of showing his appreciation.

I let months go by without cashing in on my free detail, but last Monday on my way to work, a dashboard light came on indicating that I had dangerously low tire pressure. We’d just experienced a cold front, so I assumed that, due to PV/T (yay physics), my tire pressure was lower because of the weather change.

I could have pumped up the tires myself, but I remembered my offer from Hovik, so I pulled over and called him. “Hey, Hovik. Does that free car detail include checking my tire pressure? Because if so, I’m on my way.” Hovik was delighted to hear from me and insisted that I stop by.

When I arrived, he was waiting for me in the lobby. As I handed him my keys, he asked, “Were you out late last night? I saw your car parked on the fifth floor of the parking garage instead of your usual spot on the second floor.”

Surprised, I nodded. “Yeah, I went swing dancing last night and got home around ten.” He noticed where I parked? He’d also sent me a text earlier in the day asking if I was alright because I’d made a pit stop on my way to the shop and took longer to arrive than he’d expected. This man is very attentive, I thought to myself.  

I set up my mobile office there in the lobby, dialing in to my company’s VPN and knocking out various email responses while Hovik and his team worked on my car. After several minutes, Hovik reappeared and gestured for me to follow him outside. I grabbed my purse, locked my laptop and trailed behind him. When we got to my bright blue Beemer, Hovik turned and gave me a lopsided grin. “The reason you had low tire pressure is right there.” He pointed to my front driver tire. “You have a nail in your tire.” Oh.

“Good thing you brought it in,” he continued. “I’m really glad you didn’t have a blow-out on the freeway. My shop doesn’t do tire plugs, but there’s a Discount Tire around the corner.”

“Okay,” I said, thinking about the logistics of my day. “I have another meeting coming up. I was going to dial in from your lobby… Do you mind if I stick around here for another hour before going to Discount Tire?”

Hovik studied me thoughtfully for a moment before speaking. “You know what?” he began, “Why don’t I have one of my guys take your car over to Discount Tire and handle it for you?”

I was stunned. “Really? You…. you’d do that?”

He shrugged and grinned, muscles bulging. How had I not noticed this guy at the gym? “Yeah, let me take care of you.”

So I returned to Hovik’s lobby, took care of my various business meetings, and an hour later, Hovik strode up to me with my keys in hand. “All set,” he told me with a smile.

“How much do I owe you for the plug?” I asked.

He waved away my question. “Don’t worry about it. It was my pleasure to take care of it for you.”

I was stunned by his generosity. Up to that point, I’d assumed the simple band on his right ring finger was a wedding band. But now I’m not so sure. Especially since his texts have continued into this week and are decidedly non-car-related.

And I’m also beginning to suspect that the lavishness of his shop’s customer service may – possibly, maybe, perhaps – be specific to the customer. Ha.

Authentically Aurora

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