Tell People Why You Do What You Do, It Matters
For the last year, I have worked at an international corporate manufacturing company. The company is great — it invests in its employees, produces quality products and is socially and environmentally responsible.
Now this is the part of the story where I feel I’m supposed to say how unhappy I am. How what I really want to do is quit and work for a nonprofit or start my own business. How I’m burdened by corporate red tape, unaccountably and resistance to change. But these aren't true — I’m very happy. I’m learning more than I ever have in my life. I’m working in an area of rapid change with a team of smart, young people who want to understand technology that impacts a majority of the world.
Why then do I feel like I’m supposed to say I’m unhappy?
When someone asks what I do for a living for example, I often respond with, “Oh I work in corporate.” As if I identify too passionately with my corporate job, I will be ostracized by the people I admire most — my friends who are teachers, entrepreneurs, tattoo artists, cooks, designers, and journalists.
I feel to talk about myself and my corporate job makes people bored and occasionally offended.
And I don’t blame them. Unfortunately, corporate is built to seem beyond those it does not include. Internal acronyms are rife. Industry jargon are worse. Egos and salaries are out of control. But these are the things I too find frustrating. And by using that blanket statement, I assume rejection by association without even giving that person a chance.
But I spend at least 40 hours a week doing this job and I need to be able to talk about it — to connect with a diverse group of friends about it. And I can do better. So this is what I do:
“I work with a team to understand how my company’s technology can improve people’s lives and what we can do to find these people and show we actually care.”
Not so bad. It even makes me excited to write it — so I know it will make people excited to hear it. And if they don’t, at least I gave them the answer they deserve.
I also wanted to acknowledge my inability to talk about my job is far out-shadowed by nontraditional jobs that society does not give their due — roles I’m sure we’re all familiar with. I hope this does not piss them off but help illustrate how necessary it is for everyone to be able to discuss their job.