On Work

The travails of today’s youth set the stage for a different sort of rebellion. Though the opposition remains the same – institutions, the government, the Man, authority –  the demands are quite unique. Rather than defecting from society, as revolutionaries most often do, the young have a feverish desire to participate, an intense fervor to work.

For the millions of unemployed graduates all over the world, the end-goal of obtaining gainful employment is more than simply financial remuneration. Despite being a priority during this current economic downturn, monetary compensation plays a remarkably minor role in regard to personal motivation. In fact, as an activity which preoccupies most of our adult lives, work involves a number of principles that are arguably more meaningful than the duties listed in a standard job description: participation, contribution and validation.

There is no denying that work is a social activity. On the one hand, it enables social interaction between the individual, colleagues, supervisors, customers and competitors. There is no single occupation that does not require the least amount of communication, whether in the real or virtual world.

On the other hand, work allows individuals to participate in society. As a member of the working class, an individual has a voice, the freedom to organize as well as every right to be heard. Participation takes place within a social collective, be it among colleagues, within a team, a department, a firm, an organization or society as a whole.

Furthermore, it goes without saying that any amount of work can be considered a contribution. Whether it be the latest mobile application, breaking news article, original brew recipe or lyrical masterpiece, the primary function of work is to produce something of value. For the idealistic youth of today, being able to contribute, to produce something valuable, specifically for the benefit of society is a fundamental concern.

Nevertheless, contribution is not limited to output alone. Through our participation and social interaction, we are able to contribute to the richness of others’ experiences. Discourse, no matter how mundane, creates meaning in the world we inhabit, increasing our knowledge and giving value to our lives.

Finally, the desire to work is essentially rooted in our human need for validation. In relation to participation, work satisfies our primeval yearning for acceptance. It validates our membership within a community and our role in society. Likewise, the confirmation that our work truly makes a difference is most sought after. Indeed, much satisfaction is gained from the recognition of your boss, a customer, a colleague or even a friend.

Ultimately, work is a quest for our own personal validation. Though it does not define who we are (unless we allow it to), what we do on daily basis is part of our identity. As human beings, we try to find meaning within our own lives. We look to our work as a validation of our existence, proof that there is indeed a point to all of this, that what we do matters. Most importantly, our work confirms that we matter. We matter to ourselves, to the people we work with, the customers we work for, the people we love and the world we live in.

Fulfillment begins when even the smallest part of our social circle acknowledges our active participation in contributing something of value. However, when work becomes an act of love, it can no longer be called work. ✌

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