My very first job when I moved to Washington DC in the early 90s was as a temp mailing sugar propaganda to schools across the country.
The goal of the organization at the time was to promote the health benefits of natural sugar. While I found the idea of mailing sugar information to schools pretty amusing, especially the Spanish-language version titled “El Diente,” it wasn’t a goal I cared about at all. I actually felt somewhat guilty about it. Combined with the mind-numbing work, it was hard to stay motivated and I did precisely what was expected of me and no more.
(I’m experiencing karmic payback now that I have two young children who love sugar!)
My next temp gig was filing paper event registration forms for an organization that helped companies relocate their employees more effectively. There was an international component to this, which I was very interested in since I had studied abroad in high school and college. The goal of relocation is to move people efficiently but also to do so in a way that enabled the employee to become effective in the job as soon as possible. Much of this work actually focuses on supporting their family more than the employee.
This was something that I could get behind. I had personal experience with it and knew how valuable it was to people uprooting their lives to move across the world.
It was a goal that mattered to me. I worked hard, was offered a permanent position and spent the next seven years moving through a half-dozen positions of increasing responsibility, constantly pushing to create new ways to achieve that goal.
What a difference a goal that mattered made to my career. I’m still exploring the path that those seven years opened up for me.
You will actually harm your career if you take a job somewhere that does not pursue a goal that matters to you in some fashion. You will languish. You will not make exciting things happen.
Nothing other than a goal that matters will maintain your motivation and energy consistently over time.
You need a goal that matters. If you don’t have one, make one. Or find someone who has one you can get behind and work with them.
Life is short! Go for it.