Recently, I read a news story about a woman who had been separated from the military after ten years of service. She was separated involuntarily after returning from a tour in Afghanistan, and surprised by the move. The story included a quote that indicated she’d joined the service “to try something different.” There’s no reason to think she did not serve well or honorably; her job in the service was over manned, and the military needed to cut back because of budget. But I was struck with how disconnected her reason for enlisting was with the mission of a fighting force. I can’t help but think that the military was not the right place for her.
Although the military is an extreme example (you must be willing to sacrifice your life for the mission), every company has a mission that drives its leadership and its growth. If you can’t articulate it or connect with it emotionally, you are probably not going to have success or happiness in your job – no matter how well it pays.
We all need to feel that our work matters. We want to work for companies that make the world a better place in some way. The founders of the company (and hopefully, its top leadership) created and run the company with a vision and mission in mind. They’re often lofty and inspiring. Here are a few corporate examples (edited for length):
- Our friendly, knowledgeable and professional staff will help inspire, educate and problem-solve for our customers. (Advantage Auto Parts)
- Because the product we sell is books, our aspirations must be consistent with the promise and the ideals of the volumes which line our shelves. To say that our mission exists independent of the product we sell is to demean the importance and the distinction of being booksellers. (Barnes & Noble)
- …To be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance. (Chevron)
- To be the safest, most progressive North American railroad, relentless in the pursuit of customer and employee excellence. (CSX)
- We are a global family with a proud heritage passionately committed to providing personal mobility for people around the world. (Ford)
- We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling. (Harley Davidson)
- To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (Nike)
If you’re working, (or looking) do you know the mission and vision of the company? Does it resonate with your personal values? Do you feel that the work you’re doing makes a difference? If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, you may be in the wrong place, even if you’re doing a good job.
Sooner or later in your career, you’ll want to find work that is “meaningful.” What that means is different for each of us. But knowing what the company means by it is a good start.