If you’re reading this right now, I’d be willing to bet that somewhere along the way in your career you had a realization.
It came like an epiphany, the light bulb flipped on and you’re like wow! [Putting my fingers to my temple so that I can read your mind]
What was that big realization (usually following a job or role that you thought was going to be fulfilling but honestly wasn’t)
“If only I could be in a career helping people” You feel like that could be it, that could be really fulfilling and meaningful.
You: OMG how did you you know Scott?
Ok, maybe it didn’t sound exactly like this for you, but EVERYONE goes through this realization in one way or another. Sometimes it’s the Doctor who realizes that she’s not helping people in the way she wants to be after being kicked around by insurance companies. Other times you’re helping your friends out or maybe you’re at a volunteer event and you realize, “this feels really good. If only I could do more of this”
It’s a basic human need in our work to feel fulfilled for any length of time.
In the case of Jackie Yerby, from Portland OR, she had this realization after leaving one an unfulfilling job in sustainability (she thought would be meaningful) and getting recruited to work on a campaign for climate change where it was her job to work directly with people who were in the Catholic faith (same as her own faith)
It felt meaningful and important. That was also the summer that the pope came out with his people on climate change
She loved it. It was great! The only problem? The pay wasn’t as great!
But it gave her a taste of what meaningful work could really feel like. And she knew that there had to be a way to have both, meaningful work ( careers helping people ) that also paid well.
HOW DO YOU HELP PEOPLE IN A MEANINGFUL WAY THAT ALSO PAYS WELL?
If you do an analysis what people search for on google (which is a treasure trove for great insights and data into how we think) we find that hundreds of thousands of people each year are searching for “careers involving helping others” or “best jobs for helping people” or “jobs where you help others”. Here’s what you get when you search.
These search results sound great, But they produce misleading results.
Notice how they’re all focused on the job itself. The problem is that when you’re talking about meaning, fulfillment and helping people, everyone wants to help people in different ways.
This means that a list of careers helping others is actually completely worthless.
WHY LISTS OF CAREERS THAT HELP PEOPLE ARE WORTHLESS
Ok, they’re not entirely but for most of us they will lead you in the wrong direction and do more damage than good.
Why? Because It turns out that all of us need to be helping others in different ways. So a list that includes all the things society considers helping others (Doctor, Teacher, Fireman, Minister, etc) may not include anything that would truly feel helpful for you.
What’s meaningful for me to help others might have very little impact on what’s most meaningful to you. I get a lot of meaning from spending my time creating new ways to look at career topics and then getting feedback from people. The average person might think “Wow I need to be helping people more directly”
This is because as human beings we need to be able to directly see and connect how the work we’re doing helps others. If we don’t see the connection then it does.
Remember Jackie Yerby? Remember how one role in reaching out to the community for climate change felt like she was helping people in a meaningful way but her role in sustainability didn’t?
Both of those are helping others (actually if you think about it every job in the world is helping people in one way or another) but if you don’t see or connect HOW it’s helping others then that doesn’t matter at all. It won’t feel like it is.
This of course means that you need to figure out for yourself the ways that you feel like you are helping others
“Helping” doesn’t have to happen in the traditional ways we think.
Everyone wants to help in a different way: mentoring, coaching, teaching, managing, the list goes on and on. Helping can also function at different levels: 1-on-1, groups, companies, communities, states, nations, etc.
The important part is that you’re figuring out what type of helping is right for you!
HOW DO YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT TYPE OF HELPING OTHERS IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
We’ve put together a couple of questions to get you started. The answers to these questions won’t be magic bullets but they will give you clues on where and what types of roles to look for that make you truly feel like you’re helping.
What ways do you *most* enjoy OR feel meaning from helping others (Pick the ones that most apply to you) These will help you get started.
- Delivering Expertise
- Providing Counsel
- Providing Services
- Creating/Making for others
- Giving (Time/Money/Goods)
- One on One
- Small Groups
- Large Groups
- Regional/Area/State/Nation Level
- Helping Specific Segments of the population (Ex. In Need)
- Global Level
Describe the types of Helping People that have been most meaningful to you in the past: For some people this may be coding video games and others helping underprivileged youth *NOTE there is no “correct” answer here except the ones that feel most meaningful to you.
Now look back over that list, what made it most meaningful for you, what was the context? What types of people were they? Did it have anything to do with the cause?
For Jackie Yerby who we mentioned earlier, she loves helping people most when she’s involved in causes she is excited and moved by. She also has to be working collaboratively with people she respects and making visible change for people she feels like she connects with.
If she doesn’t have some of these pieces, it won’t feel meaningful for her.
After realizing that being at the top in an executive director role wasn’t helping others in the way she wanted, she found a role that combined the ways she enjoys helping others.
She now is the Policy Director for the Urban League of Portland. You can listen to her entire story here.
What are the ways that roles feel most meaningful to you? What types of helping others is truly right for you? Use the questions above to get started. If you want even more help getting started figuring out the ideal career for you, join our free 8 Day Mini-Course to help you figure out the life and work you love or talk to our team about our coaching programs.
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