Reassuring words for the harried Class of 2012

Just in time for graduation season comes an essay from author Clayton Christensen on how to find work that you love. His encouragement to “follow your passion” is calming advice for this year’s class of newly minted alums who are under the gun to take a job – any job.

Not that Christensen has a problem with pulling down a paycheck. He doesn’t. Rather, the bone he’s chosen to pick is folks who make making money THE THING. As he writes: It “isn’t that money is the root cause of professional unhappiness. It’s not. The problems start occurring when it becomes the priority over all else.” Christensen worries that too many North Americans have stopped believing it’s possible to do good, while also doing well financially.

WORKING HARD FOR THE JOY OF IT

In response, he reminds us that “some of the hardest working people on the planet are employed in charitable organizations. They work in the most difficult conditions imaginable: they earn a fraction of what they would if they were in the private sector. Yet it’s rare to hear of managers of nonprofits complaining about getting their staff motivated.”

Christensen is quick to acknowledge that hygiene factors (status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices) matter. Think The Office or the cartoon character Delbert and his pointy haired boss. In Christensen’s words, “bad hygiene causes dissatisfaction.” But cleaning up the smelly aspects of a job isn’t enough to make it lovable. That comes from deep within each heart – from personal motivations, values, and dreams.

WORKING HARD FOR GOD’S JOY IN IT

For persons of faith, loving one’s work comes from seeking first the Kingdom of God and trusting that what comes after will be enough. It comes from remembering, as Amy Sherman writes in Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good (quoting N. T. Wright) that

What we do in the present – ‘painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, carrying for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself – will last into God’s future.’ Such activities are all a part of what we may call ‘building God’s kingdom.’ Our work is not in vain, because we are ‘accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world.’

Christensen promises that “once you get this right, the more measurable aspects of your job will fade in importance. As the saying goes: find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

That’s a good word – a reassuring word – for the Class of 2012. Indeed, for all of us. Generous matters, including in the choices we make about work.

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