Are You Living Someone Else's Work Life?

Are You Living Someone Else's Work Life?

Why work?

It seems like a simple question but it’s generally a tough one for people to answer. Working is something that most of us take for granted in our lives, something that we just do, something we know we have to do, or ought to do, or want to do.

But we rarely take the time to figure out what work means to us, in our lives, and in the world. Because who has time right? There’s too much work to do! But if you don’t step back for a moment to contemplate the meaning of work in your own life, you may find you are inadvertently living someone else’s.

And of course there’s the question of what work is. It’s your paid job, yes. But I’d be willing to wager that there are other tasks in your life, other than your paid job, that feel like work. Why do we do these tasks? What do they mean?

There’s the obvious answer, money. But if you dig a bit deeper you will find it’s much more than that. There are any number of jobs that provide money. But how much money is enough? What is the money for? What do status, growth and fulfillment have to do with it?

In Stanford University’s cutting edge career development course “Designing Your Life” students are asked to develop a “Workview,” before they even begin to contemplate a potential career path. This is because research has shown that when people develop a philosophy of work, when they are able to connect work to something personally meaningful, they are more likely to succeed and to find career satisfaction. Step back and get clear about the meaning of work in your life. It's the first step to finding the right career fit.

Just about every UBC grad I speak to claims to want work that is meaningful and fulfilling. But often they have chosen a career path based on what someone else says is meaningful and fulfilling, not what is actually meaningful and fulfilling to them. I know today's post contains more questions than answers, but that's actually the point. The answers are within you. I challenge you to take some time to ponder these questions and share your thoughts in the comments. Don't describe the work you want to do or the industry you want to be a part of. Go deeper. Go back to the beginning and reflect on why you work in the first place. This exercise can provide incredible insights, and at the very least you will be able to confirm that the work life you are living is actually your own.

michele-murphy-photoMichele Murphy is the Alumni Career Educator at alumni UBC. For support at every stage of your career development process, visit us online at, follow us on Twitter @alumniUBCcareer, and connect with Michele on Linked In. Don't forget to view our latest Career Webinar, where alumni share their career expertise on a wide range of career development topics.