“My work matters,” you think to yourself. In a small studio, shop, or a startup, everything you do is significant. You can see your contributions pushing the business forward every day. You feel good about yourself.
If you’re 1 of 3 people in a company, you’re almost a superhero. If you’re 1 of 30, you might still feel you’re contributing. But if you’re 1 of 3000, can you recognize your impact on the whole business every day? If you leave for three months, you’ll find the company somehow survived without you. Shocking, right?
This realization can be demotivating so you might start saying to yourself, “Well, my contributions don’t matter much, so I’ll skimp on quality and quantity. Work of other people will hide my lack of enthusiasm for the job.” You’ve landed on a slippery slope, and you bet it’s downhill from here on. The problem is that other people, those that you hoped to rely on, might think the same thing. Suddenly, instead of making a lot of right decisions, thousands of people are making a lot of bad decisions—a sure path to a catastrophe.
Both your boss and you need to figure out how your work fits into a bigger picture. He or she needs to provide context and set a goal. It’s up to you to look around, see what other teams are doing, and watch where your industry is heading. You shouldn’t make your job your meaning of life—unless you want to—but you should know how your work contributes to the whole. Even if you have a job you don’t like and have to do to make ends meet, changing your perspective and finding out why that work is important will make it easier for you and better for the business.
Finding a purpose in your work is critical. You might be a cog in a machine, but you should be a cog that is enabling the machine to function properly.
This article is a part of my “lessons from the corporate world” series. If you’re curious, take a look at the intro on how it started and the list of all articles.