Is your purpose the same as your profession? They're related, but they're not always the same. Learn how to make your life's purpose fit with the job you have at the moment.
- Some people are born with the sense of purpose, and some people find their purpose in school. The challenge with searching for your purpose is that it doesn't always align perfectly with a profession, at least, not immediately. I sat down with Boston University's Dean of Students, Kenneth Elmore. We've known each other for several years. And, in fact, I worked for him when I was in college. Dean Elmore is someone who sees people looking to find their purpose every single day, and trying to hold onto that purpose, as they enter the world of work.
And one of the thing I loved about working with Dean Elmore was that he has truly found a sense of purpose himself. Dean Elmore, thank you so much for being with me today. - And thank you for having me, what a pleasure. - I'm so excited to talk to you about this. We're talking about purpose at work. And one of the things that really struck me about this topic was a lot of people go to college and they have no idea where to start. They come in either undeclared, or change their major a million times, like you know I did.
And then, after college, you have this sense of purpose in college, you're so engaged in your major, and you're so passionate. And then, a few months later, you're entry level in accounts payable, and it's not quite as purposeful as Boston University was, or as another college was. How can people bridge that gap into the professional world? - Yeah, so I think there are two things that I would do. You gotta think about whether or not you got a job, or whether or not you are participating in something that makes sense for you. So, for me, for example, when I started in my entry level spaces, I just knew I wanted to be in higher education.
And I was really happy that I was there. That's important for me. The other thing that I did, that I would recommend people do, I'm always saying this, ABL, "always be looking". I got a folder in my computer, I always look at those places where I think I might wanna go. And so, for me, the motivation is to think about where my next place might be. You know, when I interview people for jobs, one of the things I always ask them, "What's your next job after this?" And that's an important piece. Because I wanna get a sense as to where their heart is, and what they're about.
So, I would say, if you start off in you're entry level work, try to be mindful of whether you're in the right place, in the right industry, and then, "Where are you gonna go next?" I also ask myself this question, and I always ask my students this question. In 20 years, what are you ideally hoping that you're doing? A lot of people can't answer that question. And again, that's a question about your heart. That's a question about what's important to you. And once you figure that out, then you gotta think, "Well, how am I going to get there eventually?" - I know that when we worked together, you were so dialed into the purpose of Boston University, and so dialed into the purpose of creating that magical university experience for students.
And you brought that alive for all of us of who have worked with you. What's your advice to other leaders who are looking to cultivate that sense of purpose, or even an individual who is really trying to connect to the end game of work? - So, I do this periodically. I stop and ask myself, "Why am I here, why am I here? "And why do I stay here? "Why do I continue to be here?" I've started to do these interviews with my staff, particularly staff who have been around for awhile. I like to ask them, "Why do you stay here? "Why are you here in the first place? "And why do you stay here?" Not that I want you to leave, or anything.
But I really wanna get a sense as to what keeps you here, and what keeps you motivated to do this kind of work. I gotta make sure I ask myself that from a personal level. But I also wanna ask that question of my staff. And we recently had a staff meeting, an all division meeting, where I said, "Okay, I'm gonna try to answer the question for all of us. "And ask that we refocus a little bit, "in terms of why we're here." - I think that is a great refocus, to bridge the gap between here's our professional to do list, and here's the true purpose why we're here.
In your case, for the students. And for other organizations, it could be the customers, for those that they serve, for a business to business customer. And making sure that those two are not in conflict, but actually in alignment. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. - Of course, and good to see you, thank you. - To bridge the gap between purpose and profession, think about what inspires you, and the kind of impact you want to have on the world, and the impact of the work you're doing right now.
Sure, 100% of your activities at work aren't going to feed your soul. But tapping into the bigger meaning of them, and the collective effort of your organization makes them less tedious. And remember the scale, you're trying to make a dent in the world, not solve all of the world's problems. So, as you're trying to build a sense of purpose into your profession or future profession, actively look for those emotional threads. It's more than just a job, it's the way you interact with others, the impact you have on the world, and ultimately, the legacy you leave behind.
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