Go After your Calling (Without Giving Up Your Paycheck)

There’s a myth out there: that you either get to make a decent living or you can do something meaningful. I hear people who work in education talking about “selling their soul” if they want to take a higher salary at a for profit company, or I hear tech workers talk about wanting to do something different “but I’d have to take a pay cut”.

It is possible to make this either/or choice, and give up a sense of mission for money or give up money to do a job that’s more meaningful, but it isn’t required. You can have a job and life that feels impactful and still make money doing it. Here are 5 ways:

1. Add meaning into your existing role
My partner has one of those traditional run of the mill tech jobs, and at the same time he has a deep passion and big heart. To be able to act on his desire to give back and do more than just run tech for his company, he takes on all the extra projects he can that are connected to things he cares about. He’s engaged in the Women in Technology group. He interviews potential interns on college campuses and gives them career advice in the process. He’s always taking on something that he cares about in addition to the parts of his job that he doesn’t, and this helps him craft mission where he is, without sacrificing any benefits or pay. What opportunities do you have to engage in aspects of your company that could make the world a better place? Can you put your hand up for a community initiative, or take the lead on sponsoring an event or cause on behalf of your company, or start a new venture within the company that is aligned to what you’re passionate about? What else can you take on, where you are?

2. Build Your Own Job
A natural extension of strategy number 1 is to build your own job description, either where you are or somewhere else. People rarely realize how flexible job descriptions are, and how much leeway you might have to craft a role that will be both impactful and at the level you need to maintain your lifestyle. If you see a need that you have the skills to help fill, and the passion to do so, propose it to the company you want to work for (maybe it’s your own or maybe not). Start by identifying a clear need that you are really excited to help address, and then think of the value-add to the company in your doing it. It could lead to a new line of business, or it could increase employee engagement, or it could help build the company’s brand as a mission-driven and socially-oriented business. All of these aspects should not be underrated and could be built into your proposal. It just might be a win-win-win.

If you like the sound of this, you can get a free Guide to Crafting Your Job Here.

3. Find Successful, Mission-Driven Companies
Companies that both pay well and have impactful roles are out there. Here in Seattle we have several, and it’s just a matter of clearly identifying the cause you want to work on and the skills you have to do it. You might manage tech projects or assets for the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, and feel a direct connection to how your work helps cure a disease you struggled with personally. Or, you might head over to REI, knowing that their public advocacy for wilderness areas is supported by your efforts. Or maybe you take your data analytics skills to the Gates Foundation, and feel a clear contribution to helping choose the best and most impactful nonprofits working to improve the education system (while getting a full year of parental leave to boot!). There are many mission-driven companies and roles within companies that also pay competitively and provide lifestyle benefits that compete with more traditional tech companies and roles. Go find them.

4. Work a side hustle
Side hustling is the art and science of working on a passion project that also makes money. This could be anything from your woodworking hobby to helping other new Seattleites navigate the city, and setting up a tiny business to support that problem, project, or cause. Full time jobs that feel meaningless can gain new meaning as the way to fund a side project that you care very much about, brings you joy, or creates a real impact in the world.

5. Become a philanthropist
Others choose to embrace the method of earning as much money as possible, in order to use that money to drive their passion and mission outside of work. You might join nonprofit boards, or fund startups you think are doing incredible and meaningful work, or contribute to social ventures and causes that you see are making a true impact. Using the excess money that comes from your high paying job on efforts like this can be a way to reframe your work as impactful, even if the day to day tasks don’t feel that way. Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective, in knowing that the hours you put in indirectly fund the efforts you drive with your dollars.

So how will you increase your impact? Whether you choose to “bloom where planted”, start something new on the side, or find a new more meaningful role, you have options. And no excuse to wallow in a role that feels meaningless.

Need help managing your career? Get in touch with me here!

Janet Matta

Janet Matta

In 2014 I quit my perfectly good job to move to Australia, because I just HAD to. It had been on my bucket list for 30 years, and there wasn't a good time, so, no time like the present would do, really! I moved back to Seattle in 2016, but since my move to Australia and back, I've also run a business (careerjanet.com) and held a variety of other roles in universities and ed tech companies, fixing young professionals' career crises. I've become a bit of an expert at navigating the early career decision making minefield, and I love to write! I maintain a blog at careerjanet.com, provide advising and classes for young professionals, and also consult for companies and nonprofits on education, career, and the future of work. Bonus: I also work out of Atlas Workbase! ๐Ÿ™‚ I'm on LinkedIn here: linked.com/in/janetmatta
Janet Matta

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