Love your job: How a healthy tension of love and fear shaped my career
MeaningSphere Guide Sheri Buergey shares the role both love and fear have played in shaping her own exploration of meaningful work.
As I begin the tail end of my professional career (I can’t believe I’m almost there AND admitting to it!), I find myself reflecting a lot—learning more about what shaped my career and the role that love, and fear, play in it.
I didn’t always have a practice of active self-reflection, especially in my early career. Now, as a culture and engagement builder, change practitioner, coach, and MeaningSphere Guide, I know that a personal learning process begins with self-awareness. I’d like to share some of my personal journey to illustrate how self-reflection has helped me find the work I love, in the hope that it will help you do the same.
I like to use quotes as a source of inspiration for myself and the people I work with. Staying true to that, I’ll use two relevant quotes here to organize my story.
“A successful career is a scavenger hunt for love.” Marcus Buckingham, Love + Work
When I reflect on when love entered my work life, I’m reminded of the pivotal moments in my career when I learned something new about myself and the type of work that I was meant to do. Loving “numbers” influenced my decision to acquire a business degree in finance. Within my first two jobs as a financial analyst, there were aspects that I loved: namely, the people who became friends and the leaders who cared about me and my development.
But did I love my work? I don’t think so.
During my MBA, to my surprise, one of our professors invited me to be a small group facilitator in a speech class. Why a professor would want this “numbers” girl to be responsible for guiding students’ oral presentations was a puzzling, and frightening, question. But I took the leap and did it—and I continued to do so for 10 more years, transitioning from student to faculty member. When I began to see growth in my students and realized that I somehow contributed to that growth, I felt a fire inside me that I'd never felt about my work before.
What did I learn on this “scavenger hunt,” as Marcus Buckingham would say? I learned it feels really good to be responsible for another person's development, and that I would love to experience more.
To get “more,” I left a job where I loved the people, the leaders, and the culture to teach financial software. I thought this new direction would be a great blend of my education and my calling. What did I learn? That it’s important to also love what I was teaching, and financial software wasn’t it. After only 8 months, while expecting my first child, I left the new job. I went back to the company I loved to see if I could find more of what really motivated me there.
While I won’t bore you with each job change and lesson learned, I’d like to share just one more: the job that marked the starting point of a career that I love. Still at the same company (I was there for 24 years, by the way!), I made my personal career interests known to my leaders: I would like to transition into a learning-based role where I can make a difference with people.
It didn't happen overnight, but having expressed what I wanted to be doing, I began moving in this direction within the company. I gained a taste for the work by participating in projects that involved teaching and learning, such as onboarding regional teams. Two years later, I excitedly accepted a job opportunity in Learning Development.
My new leader knew I had no technical job experience to bring to this role. He explained that my business knowledge, communication skills, and relationships were worth more to him than the technical skills of assessing and meeting the learning needs of our employees. So, without any training or handholding, he threw me into the fire (well, that’s how I felt at the time, anyway). Admittedly, I’m now grateful for his onboarding approach because I learned that I could navigate a lot of uncertainty by relying on my natural strengths; and simply being curious and resourceful.
The rest is, well, history. 😉
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky
I’ve written a lot about pursuing what it is I love. Yet sprinkled throughout this small sampling of my personal career journey, you may have also noticed another strong emotion at play: fear.
Looking back, I have learned the most about what I loved by doing things that scared me the most. If I had not accepted that opportunity to facilitate graduate students, I may have never known, or would only have realized much later, that I loved developing people. Or that teaching financial software was vastly different for me than guiding and inspiring other people’s growth and development. Or that I crave care and love in the workplace, and that others would give me opportunities because of this. I only learned these things because I did something scary.
It might sound like I love to be afraid. I absolutely do not. But I'm now willing to face fear on my scavenger hunt because I know that love could very well be on the other side.
What have you done recently that scares you? What fills up your soul, and how can you start finding more of it on your own personal scavenger hunt for love?
I can’t give you the answers, but I know this for sure: You’ll never know if you don’t try.
Want to explore what makes your work meaningful? We’ve got you covered.
The Meaningful Work Survey is a self-awareness assessment designed to help you uncover what really motivates you—illuminating a path to a more fulfilled worklife. For a limited time, we are also offering the opportunity to schedule a free 1:1 session with one of our expert Guides who can help you turn your survey results into action.
*Please note that, right now, we’re only able to offer the Meaningful Work Survey in the US. We hope to change that soon!