What is the Purpose of a Job?
By Steve Gillman - February 23, 2013
People ask how you what you do for a living. They ask if you
like your work. Maybe they are even interested enough to ask
for a few details about what you do. But there is a question
that rarely gets asked. It is this: What is the purpose of your
job? Or, in other words, why do you have this particular employment?
The purpose that matters to you might be just to pay the bills,
but it rarely that alone or you would always be looking for the
highest pay available with no other considerations. Yet there
are other considerations, aren't there? You might want
some enjoyment in your work, for example. Or you might want some
satisfaction in the exercising of your particular talents. Or
you might be using the job as a way to get a better one.
I went for almost ten years without a job, because our internet
business was doing well. Now that it just barely pays the bills,
I've been looking at jobs again. I considered working at a "dollar
store," with the purpose being to make a little money and
explore the possibility of opening such a business. I have had
a volunteer job with Habitat for Humanity, which has helped me
develop construction and renovation skills. I may put those to
use buying and renovating condos or houses to sell at a profit.
I've even been working for a temporary agency, doing things
like construction clean-up and holding advertising signs. This
kind of work through "temp agency" or "labor pool"
is generally low-wage, but it has some advantages. I can work
when I like and so if I need a week off to work on my websites
or look at investment real estate, I have the time. Meanwhile
the income keeps our saving growing a bit, which is always a
Jobs, then, can serve different purposes. With that in mind,
let's look at how to make them more useful, fun, profitable,
and suited to your purposes and goals. Since it has always been
my approach to use a job as a tool for various purposes, I'll
illustrate my points and suggestions with some personal stories.
Have a Variety of Work
Some of us get tired, even physically, from doing the same
things over and over again. That's why I enjoyed my first stint
with a temporary work agency about twenty years ago. It was one
of the larger employment agencies around, and provided a good
variety of positions. I work as a host at a convention, doing
assembly work in a factory, handing out samples in a grocery
store, as a flagman on the highway, and as a mover. That's the
short list. I had perhaps twenty different jobs through that
temp agency. This can be a great way to discover what kinds of
work you like to do, especially if you are young and relatively
underqualified for high-paying jobs.
Choose When You Work
This is another potential advantage of a temporary employment
agency. If it is the right kind of company (filling truly short-term
positions of a day or a few weeks), you are normally free to
take or refuse an assignment. Granted, if you say no to more
than a few assignments in a week they may stop calling you very
often, but when there is a lot of work you can pick and choose
when to work and what kind of jobs to do.
You can also look for other ways to arrange your schedule.
When I was younger I worked as a carpet cleaner, but only on
my own terms. The owner of the company needed help now and then,
so we came to an agreement. I would work for a little less than
his other employees, but I would be paid for all the time I had
to devote to the work, including the drive between jobs. Furthermore
I would say yes or no to working any particular day--and I often
did refuse when asked to work. The owner had me there (sometimes)
to fill in when he needed a hand, without me ever begging for
more hours, and I worked when I wanted to. It was a classic win-win
Choose the Amount You Work
I worked about three days per week for many years at a casino.
I purposely chose to work part time to have more time for other
things I wanted to do. Fortunately for me, the casino I worked
at had no benefits for many years, so they were willing to do
this for me (sometimes you just have to ask). Once they started
providing health insurance and 401ks, they wanted all of us to
work at least four days each week, which I did for a while before
quitting to find something less confining.
I worked as an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant
when I was about twenty years old. At some point I decided to
start a small business and so I wanted to work just one day per
week; Sunday. I demoted myself to shift manager and let them
know that they could use me for Sundays or get rid of me. They
went for the deal rather than lose a good employee. Sometimes
you can negotiate more than just your pay if you have other goals.
What if they had said no? See the next item.
Be Ready to Lose Your Job
If you really want to use a job for your own purposes, you
might need to be ready to quit or even be fired. There is a lot
say about this, but here is the short version: Always be aware
of what other employment is available, have money in the bank,
stay out of debt and have low living expenses. Then you are free
to lose a job at will. This gives you leverage.
For example, I never really liked dealing blackjack at the
casino, but it paid well, and I did enjoy running the roulette
table when I was assigned to that. Then I was trained for weeks
on the craps table, only to discover that it was the worst work
job I could imagine (for me--most who have that position love
it). Several supervisors informed me that I would have to work
the position anyhow, since they spent all that time training
me. Hmm... Let me see if I can recall my exact words...
"It isn't your choice. I will work at a gas station before
I work on the craps table. You only have the choice of whether
to keep a good blackjack and roulette dealer or not." Of
course I said this to the supervisor who I knew liked to avoid
confrontation and who also knew that I was a good employee. He
immediately changed the schedule to put me back on the blackjack
and roulette tables.
The key here was that I meant it. I would have gladly worked
at a gas station rather than as a craps dealer. And in the meantime
I had enough money in the bank to not worry about losing the
job and low enough expenses to not worry about a four-dollar-per-hour
pay cut with the new job. If you are ready to lose a job you
have a lot more freedom.
Make More per Hour
Often there are ways to make more money per hour from your
current job, if you think about and get creative. Perhaps the
most obvious is to work holidays, overtime and any hours that
are paid at a higher rate. In fact, if you alternated weeks working
32 hours one week and 48 the next, you would be working the same
amount of time as a regular full-time employee, but making 5%
more in total income (because of the "time-and-a-half"
pay for those eight hours past forty. This is not always possible,
but I have had jobs where it is.
There are more creative ways as well. For example, when I
was working at the fast food restaurant I was responsible for
making the employee schedule each week. Previous managers had
simply thrown it together while at work. I took it home, spent
forty-five minutes on it and charged the company three hours.
Because my schedules cut hours, thus saving the company thousands
of dollars per year, while providing better coverage during busy
times, they had no problem with paying the three hours.
If you have ever worked in a pizza restaurant that has delivery,
you know that the delivery drivers make more money than the assistant
managers who have to run the shop and close the books at night.
This is because of the tips of course. I refused management positions
when I was a driver, until I had the idea to be a driver and
manager. Small pizza joints with good employees run themselves
for the most part, so I agreed to close up at night and do the
book work if I could deliver pizzas until an hour before closing
time. I received a raise with the promotion, and I still got
tips. You have to ask to receive.
What is the purpose of your job? It might be to make money,
to learn new skills, to do something enjoyable, to train for
a business, to keep busy or get benefits. Maybe it is a way to
cover costs while you get educated in order to have your dream
career. In addition to these purposes, there are other things
you hope for in a job, as well as things you hope to avoid. So
why not start thinking creatively and taking action to get more
from your current and future employment?