Fine, so you no longer want to sit in an office from nine to five, watching the clock and wondering why time passes so slowly. You want to be free from the stress and chaos of your present job, and wouldn’t mind a weekend off now and again. You want to lose the feeling that you’re working yourself to death for a company that makes no real contribution to society. The big question is: what are you going to do about it? Here are 15 suggestions.
Become a campaigner
‘Can we still afford the luxury of not being a campaigner,’ writes Naomi Klein, author of No Logo. The world is rife with wrongs that need righting, and there are many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) doing just that. Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Médecins sans Frontières are well-known examples. But there are many more, less well-known organisations. Which NGO is right for you? OneWorld (www.oneworld.net) provides an extensive overview of who’s active where and in which field.
If there’s one profession in which you can really make a difference to another person’s life, this is it. Who can forget the charismatic and inspiring teachers who told such wonderful stories and changed your outlook on life or a particular subject? If a better world doesn’t start at home, then it starts in the classroom. Unfortunately – and unjustly – teachers are seriously underpaid, but, for those willing to persevere, the satisfaction makes up for a heck of a lot.
Give some T.L.C.
Stress in the modern working environment continues to claim large numbers of victims. Never before was there more need for healing, for becoming whole. Become a yoga instructor, a massage therapist or a relationship builder. Buy a collapsible massage table and walk into an office building at lunchtime to undo the knotted steel cables in the shoulders of all those tormented microsurfs. Why stop at the office: senior citizens, children, the disabled, the homeless and those in prison could use some tender loving care as well.
Become a monk. This dying ‘profession’ needs a Western renaissance. In India, ordinary people support errant saddhoes simply because they consider it important that someone spends their time philosophising, meditating and praying. Apparently, populations at certain Western convents have recently began to increase as well.
Whether we realise it or not, a lot of first aid is given at the local pub or cafe in the form of consolation and advice. A good bar also helps fulfil the growing demand for more ‘real’ encounters. An open ear and a shoulder to lean on are scarce commodities in great demand. If you can’t be there in person, try working for a telephone hotline that offers support.
The child care sector is crying for innovation. Figure out a better way to help parents balance work and childrearing. Think of ways you can help them be closer to their children. Then you know you’ll be contributing to a better future.
The market economy brings in its wake an increasing number of conflicts. More and more organisations and individuals believe they will find justice – and happiness – in the courtroom. It turns out, however, that many people derive more satisfaction from coming up with win-win situations outside the courts. Alternative conflict resolution is booming business. If you are a lawyer, think about specialising in mediation. If you’re not, look into the many non-legal techniques and courses that can have you up and making peace in no time.
Reform office culture
Sustainable and socially responsible business appeals strongly to the imagination of those who are seeking more meaningful work. Many initiatives are gathered under this broad theme. Most leading companies have committed themselves to sustainable practices, but now they’ve got to do something about it: a challenge for creative minds! If you don’t think you’re up to the office politics, consider joining one of the numerous new, smaller enterprises for which sustainable business is not a policy but a raison d’être.
If you cannot find your dream position within a company right away, there is still an attractive alternative. Many small, innovative companies have no lack of creative thinking, but are often in dire need of people who can do odd jobs or take on projects on a free-lance basis. These companies may not be able to hire someone at the start, but they are often willing to invest in someone who can implement an idea or meet a need on a temporary basis. This could be anything from organising the archives, (re)decorating the office space, to doing (part of) the marketing campaign. If you play your cards right, you will make yourself irreplaceable and create your own job.
Build a bridge
The growing gap between rich and poor is probably the greatest threat to world peace. There are a growing number of organisations active in the field of development and fair trade promotion. Don’t forget that many people prefer to support enthusiastic, revolutionary, small-scale initiatives. In fact, why not start your own development project at home with some friends? There are many examples of ‘normal’ individuals who have made big differences; for example, by starting a micro credit institution, which supplies modest loans to small businesses in developing countries. Marianne Knuth founded a learning village in Zimbabwe (see elsewhere in this issue). Six-year old Ryan Hreljac used his savings to dig a well for an African village (see Ode May, 2003). Get involved with helping street children from all over the world, like the lawyer Peter Dalglish is doing (see Ode April, 2003). Or you cab adopt twelve Peruvian orphans and start running a hotel cum restaurant in Lima with them, like Jolanda van den Berg did (see Ode May, 2003). These are all examples of initiatives that are being supported by an enthusiastic circle of private donors.
Give first aid
Highway emergency services are high on the list of meaningful jobs. They rescue people from distressing situations; people who are usually in a hurry to be somewhere else, whether it be a wedding, a birthday party or home after a long day’s work. Just think: a mechanic is always a welcome site when your car has broke down. Fire fighters and ambulance drivers are in the same category.
Make your hobby your job
Become a ski, tennis, surf or sailing instructor. Try your luck as a golf pro or a jazz musician. Become a street musician, an acrobat or a mime actor. Which other profession offers you so much freedom and adds so much fun and colour to people’s daily lives? You get immediate results! If you don’t feel like working, or if you’ve made enough money, you just call it a day. Nobody’s looking over your shoulder. In the old days, conservative voices warned of the danger of missing out on a career if you followed your heart. But in the present global economy, careers are not often predictable. Why not enjoy each day developing your natural talents?
Start small and close to home
You don’t have to take drastic measures to find more meaning in your work. Stephan Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, advises us to start with what is closest to us: don’t get frustrated by what you can not change in your surroundings, but focus on what you can change. Do it! You will soon discover how rewarding it is to put your energy into initiatives that bring about changes in your area of influence. Suggest to the others in your department that they save paper by making two-sided photocopies. If the idea takes off, it won’t be the first time that an individual initiative leads to heightened awareness and positive change within an entire organisation.
Do something with hydrogen
The hydrogen economy (see Ode September, 2003) is going to create many new opportunities and jobs. This is a whole new field for pioneers. Read The Hydrogen Economy by Jeremy Rifkin (J.P. Tarcher, 2002) or learn more about the work of the American energy visionary Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org) and see if you don’t hit upon ideas. Read about the pioneers of the industrial revolution; the advent of the hydrogen economy is the start of a new era.
When it comes down to meaningful work, this is the fastest-growing sector in the economy. The biological sector is expanding rapidly in the United States, and the trend is spreading through Europe and the rest of the world. Even established manufacturers are now mainly introducing biological products – from cosmetics to food and clothing. The sector has outgrown its hippie phase and is now increasingly looking for talented employees who are willing to put the experience they gained in regular businesses at the disposal of these innovative enterprises. How do you find these companies? Go to your nearest health food store and look at the names of the brands of the products and their manufacturers. Write them a letter explaining how.