By Davis Nguyen Last month, I gave a talk at my high school. During the Q&A session, a student asked me what I did for community service (our high school requires a certain number of hours).
In high school I had done more than three times the required amount, but it was the first time I really thought about why I chose those particular activities.
I thought about answering the student's question by telling her what I did: "I spent most of my time going door-to-door collecting unwanted books." But that hadn't been how I viewed my community service. While I was volunteering for a Nigerian non-profit, I saw my task as helping Nigerian students 6,000 miles away get a chance to read books that would otherwise go unread.
Had I looked at my required community service as something I had to do, it would seem like a chore. Instead I asked, "Why does it matter that I do this?"
How I almost stopped myself from finding a job I was passionate about
If I selected my community service projects by asking "Why do I want to do this?" instead of "What do I want to do?", I realized I didn't do the same when it came to picking my job.
As I was searching for my first job, my failure to ask "Why does it matter?" instead of "What am I doing?" caused such a headache.
I knew coming out of college that no first job would be perfect. But as most things I had done in life, I made a list of pros and cons of what I would be doing at each potential job. The more I wrote the more I found myself uninspired to apply for any of these jobs.
Unlike what I had done with my community service projects in high school, I focused on the "what" instead of the "why" of my job.
How I found my "why"
To find my "why" I started thinking about the people who I looked up to most who were changing the world. The type of people I wanted to grow into someday.
I knew I wouldn't be a CEO of a large company out of college, but I thought about the people I looked up to and why I looked up to them. I asked myself, what qualities do I admire in them?
I made a new list. Instead of pros and cons, I made a list of qualities I wanted in myself, and I restarted my job search. The qualities I listed included:
- Being a more structured thinker
- Gaining more self-discipline
- Being challenged to deliver every day
- Being a better communicator
- Being better at time management, and
- Constantly learning
My "why" for each job became "because it will help me become the type of person I want to be." I looked at jobs that would help me reach my "why."
We’d love to hear from you in the comments:
What type of person do you want your job to help you become?
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Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.