I remember many years ago hearing a speaker tell his audience to take a piece of paper and write down the purpose of their jobs.
Most people at this meeting were PR people. As we instinctively thought about the tasks we needed to accomplish, we began our scribbling in that direction. But the speaker threw us for a loop when he said, “If you put ‘write press releases’ on your list, you’re going to lose your job.”
This was an eye-opening statement, and we were all ears. He went on to list other tasks we had likely listed and said, “If you put that on your list, you’re going to lose your job.”
As we began to wonder why we were all about to be summarily dismissed, he explained that the purpose of our jobs was related to the mission we were trying to accomplish – not the tasks we were trying to take care of.
Therefore, if we think our purpose is taking care of tasks and not pursuing the mission itself, we’ll miss the mark. Furthermore, when the tasks no longer fit the mission, we can work ourselves right out of a job if we don’t adapt.
Two decades later, I do not remember who the speaker was. But the point has stuck with me lo these many years: Don’t focus so much on your job’s tasks that you forget your job’s purpose.
I’ve been an independent writer for a while now. Yet I still see this application in work I do for clients as well. I can feel it. If I’m performing tasks they need taken care of, I recognize that I will have a role for as long as they want to outsource those tasks. However, when my work aligns with their mission and I become part of a team, I will often be able to adapt as goals, structures and personnel undergo inevitable changes.
Remember, tasks are adaptable. Purpose is overriding. Focus on your job’s purpose, and use your adaptable tasks to pursue that purpose.
Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and author of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform.