August 29, 2017
By Nate Meissner, Vocational Services Intake Coordinator, Manager of Evaluation & Transitions
“The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work” – Thomas Edison
Why do we work?
This is a question my guidance counselor asked me back when iPods had black and white screens. I responded, “It’s how we get our money,” which, for the record, I still believe is a very good reason to work. I ask this same question to the students who participate in Opportunity Partners’ work experience program. Most respond the same way I did when I was their age. However, sometimes I get an answer more noteworthy than my own. One student responded that we work because “it’s how we make things better.”
I sometimes ponder her answer when I meet new students and they explain their employment goals. How can they make things better for themselves first and then for the rest of us?
In our work experience program, students get the opportunity to work for a month at a job site that interests them. Most students are eager to try new experiences so they can determine their vocation. However, occasionally, I meet students who are searching for jobs that must directly correlate with their favorite things and most innate passions. They would like to design video games (but no coding work, please), groom horses (but no cleaning work, please), or take care of people (but no senior care, please). Many of their career goals simply do not exist, but this doesn’t mean they should not pursue their passions and also make things better. It just means we have to redefine passion.
Terri Trespicio proclaims, “Passion is not a job, a sport, or a hobby. It is the full force of your attention and energy that you give to whatever’s right in front of you, and if you are so busy looking for this passion you could miss opportunities that change your life”. Stop searching for your passion
Making things better is work, and most of the time its hard work, but it is worth the effort. I have a lot of hopes and goals for my students. My main goal is for them to experience the significance of work in all of its fluctuations. I hope they come to an understanding that each job brings value to our world in its own distinctive way. Acknowledging the inherent value within every job is far more liberating than searching for the perfect job, because no job will be perfect until our focus is.
This does not mean students should be pushed into careers they have no interest in. It just means we have to encourage each other to take risks, do difficult things, get our hands dirty, fail, and above all be willing to attempt endeavors that might not be the perfect fit. We need to experience the value of the overalls instead of relentlessly pursuing the tailor-made suit. This is the first step in making things better. (And you get paid too).