It’s pretty crazy to think that we’ll spend 90,000 hours working, that’s around one-third of our lifetime. Heck, that’s a lot of hours 😰. Doesn’t it make sense then, that we should be spending all of these hours in a way that’s meaningful to us?
We talk about this a lot here at Earlywork; it’s a big reason why we started Earlywork in the first place! Jono, Dan and I have spent a lot of time talking about what makes a “meaningful career”. And just like that, a newsletter idea was born!
I was lucky enough to chat with Andy Wetherell all about this topic. Andy is the CEO and Co-Founder of Alto Education, an Ed-Tech company that’s all about helping individuals work towards a fulfilling career.
Keep reading for a special deal just for Earlywork readers for Alto Education’s upcoming program, 😉
Over to you, Andy!
Work can be more than a means of making money. This is a belief we strongly hold at Alto Education, where our vision is for every person to have a job they love.
How I got started
I’ve been extremely lucky in my career journey so far, starting with a team of students that wanted to build & launch a satellite which we had to build a company around to achieve. We built this company out of passion, and it was my first insight into what it is like to work with a group of talented individuals focused on a singular goal, commonly shared.
The energy, the fun, and the results of this kind of team are staggering - and it struck us when looking at most of the professional world that this was not the norm, and we believe it should be.
The problem with finding fulfilling careers today
When looking for work, I believe firmly in focusing on work that you will find personally fulfilling as the highest priority. Often we focus on prestige, or money when finding a job. Just think about how many people put “Ex-<insert prestigious consulting company>” on their resumes.
The challenge with this approach is that the definition of success (e.g. how much money I make) is tied to external factors outside your control (such as the state of the economy). What you’ll find is that the people who make the most money or rise up the ranks are those who are best at their jobs, and those who are best at their jobs are the ones who are engaged because they love their work.
My framework, adapted from Ikigai
I like to use a simple Venn Diagram adapted from Ikigai, a Japanese philosophy looking at what makes a purposeful life, to think about what factors to consider when identifying potential work.
This model is based on behavioural science and combines the reality of what we need from work in the modern world in order to thrive personally and professionally.
A Strength is what you are uniquely good at. Strengths often combine a set of behaviours, transferable and interconnected skills, knowledge and specific technical skills. There are valuable assessment tools online like Gallup Clifton Strengths Assessment which can help you identify your top strengths, but asking friends and colleagues is a good insight.
An example of a Strength might be courage, the willingness to be uncomfortable and try something new.
The more scarce the Strength is, the more valuable it is.
When looking for work, consider what type of work and companies will play to your strengths. Work that lets you use your Strengths will be more engaging and you will be able to contribute more. Ideally, you can find a workplace that matches people with work based on Strengths. The easiest way to find out is to start reaching out to people who already work there.
Support is about having the right relationships and environment that lets you work how you want to work. It includes the people you work with, how like-minded you are in terms of values and beliefs with the people and company. The supportive environment helps you to thrive and continue to grow as an individual so that you can achieve more long-term.
The best place to start is to identify your values. What are the behaviours that you believe should be lived by every single day?
For example, a few of my own are: courage – willing to be uncomfortable; curiosity – a thirst to understand the world around me; candour – provide honest, challenging, yet caring feedback.
I look for companies whose values match my own. However, it’s easy for companies to talk the talk about their values. In an interview, I would turn the tables and ask the interviewer for stories that illustrate their values in action. If they can’t tell me a story when they personally showed courage, I know it’s not true.
Impact is about the value you can give back and it’s quite identity-driven. It is intertwined with Strengths; we add the most value when playing to our Strengths, as long as we work on a meaningful goal that will generate Impact. Whatever it is that you identify with, this could be solving problems for your religion, for your country, for humankind, for nature.
This comes from an evolutionary biology argument of genetic competitiveness which stacks up pretty well in explaining behaviour on a micro and macro level. For more on this, check out “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins.
The most straightforward of the lot, Incentives are the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards you desire from your work. Make a list of the extrinsic rewards such as salary, awards, status and other benefits that you desire. There’s no shame in desiring to be wealthy or to have status – just know why you are about these things and check things aren’t a means to an end (because there might be more than one way to achieve that end!).
Intrinsic rewards include challenging work, opportunities to learn and grow, impact, but that should already be covered. Both types of rewards matter, but we need to meet a threshold of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards to maintain motivation.