How I Really Feel

At times I question my status as a person working in the business sector.  

It had always been a goal of mine to become a business person.  When I was younger, some of my friends’ parents owned their own businesses which was really appealing.  Plus, both my parents worked in the public sector: my mom at an elementary school and my dad at a juvenile detention facility.  This pushed me to try something different.  As a student at Michigan State University, I studied marketing, which is the degree I graduated with.  I’ve now been working in financial services, in business, for almost four years.

Working in the business world has afforded me many great opportunities.  I’ve learned how to communicate properly in a business setting.  I’ve met many bright, wonderful people.  I’ve been able to travel to different parts of the country.  And the benefits have been great: medical, dental, an incredibly generous time off policy, and compensation that has increased a good deal each year.  I cannot complain about any of these opportunities.  Outside of work I’ve been able to design my life in a way that I choose as well - starting Corporate State University, traveling across the world, getting engaged, and buying a condo, to name a few.  All great stuff.

I’ve just listed 10 great things in my life that can be attributed to my time working in business.  So why do I question my role working in the business sector?

My parents working in the public sector certainly has something to do with it.  My mom is educating future leaders of this country.  She is taking children from all different backgrounds that face challenges at home and giving them knowledge and belief they can do whatever they set their mind to.  She is taking children of already privileged backgrounds and pushing them to believe there is something more in life.  And my dad, who has since changed roles, is still in the public sector, and is working to keep kids in school.  As the truancy officer of a school district, he works to build relationships with students to better understand their background and mindset.  He then takes that understanding to influence and encourage them to get back into school so they can improve their life.  Me?  I’m working to increase the open rate of a marketing email that less than 50% of people will look at.  I’m working to improve the digital experience of a platform that sees less than a million people each day, offering them a minuscule benefit to using their credit card.  Where is the personal impact?

What I do and what my parents do (and have done) are so totally different.  My parents are interacting daily with their “customers” to make them smarter, more educated, and better people.  I have little interaction with my customers and work to make educated guesses and prove assumptions that can make their experience, and my bottom line better.  Business these days is a two way street: you must impact the customer positively first in order for you to be successful.  But it all feels very self-serving, especially when you are removed from the day-to-day interaction with customers.

I know I am smart and can solve complicated problems.  Choosing to leverage my intelligence to impact the credit card rewards space feels like a waste of my talents.  I have been working in my current role for over a year now and have enjoyed many aspects of it.  One of my concerns from the beginning, though, was that it represented such a small piece of the company’s pie, and an exponentially smaller piece of the country and world.  I see and read about people working on challenging problems that impact large-scale issues, like health care, cures for diseases, challenges with infrastructure, and childhood obesity and I am grateful for the efforts these people are putting forth to make the world a better place for so many people.  The people that are putting themselves in positions to have wide-spread impact are taking advantage of the skills they’ve been given and have acquired over the duration of their lives and are putting them to use to serve the greater good.  That is awesome.  In my current role, I have a minute impact on very few people’s financial well-being.

I mentioned earlier my compensation has increased each year I’ve been in the work force.  I am grateful for this because it has allowed me to experience and do so much in my young life.  Though I am appreciated of this, it often feels like I am working purely for the paycheck.  I should be working for the passion I have for the cause I support.  The paycheck should be the ancillary benefit, not the sole purpose of working.  This has created a sense in myself of looking for money, and more of it, in a job.  There is nothing wrong with having money.  But one reason I am questioning my status in the business sector is because of the money.  That’s what it is all about to the company and to many of the individuals that work there, myself included.  I am seeking a deeper pull and connection to something that will cause further drive and purpose in my life than a bigger paycheck every two weeks.    

All of the paragraphs prior to this one sound like something I would say right before I quit and announce I’m going to become a lawyer protecting underserved communities or a parole officer.  I’m not at that point yet nor do I have the necessary skill sets.  I will still, likely, remain in business for the foreseeable future because I am good at it and know how to effectively navigate in the space.  This may sound hypocritical, but, I know there is a way for me to leverage my strengths in business to serve a broader community and have a positive impact, just as my mom and dad have done throughout their careers.

A family friend told me when I was younger: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  At first I thought this meant literally doing what you love (for me, at the time, it was playing baseball) regardless of if you could sustain yourself financially.  But I now know, you can do what you love for a living and get by comfortably.  I have yet to figure out what I love and how I wish to impact the world in a larger way, but it is part of my journey and I will continue until I find it.