How many times have you heard that question when you’ve just been introduced to someone? How many times have you asked it to someone else?

I’m taking an online course. The instructor is one of my long-time favorite people: Seth Godin.

I’ve listened to the first few lectures and I’m working on the first assignment. The first question in the first assignment set is:

What do you want to do? (Not your job, but your work, now, tomorrow, and in the future.)*

As you can see, that question comes with a little asterisk. Seth’s comment under the asterisk is: If you’re having trouble answering this, you’re going to have trouble moving up, because you’ve abdicated your dream to whomever walks in the door next.

Because everything else depends on that

What I want most to do is help people and organizations be effective online so they can change the world for good. Mostly, that means working with nonprofit organizations and the people who make them work. Mostly, that means building nonprofit websites that work. Mostly, that means consulting with nonprofits to identify where their websites have gone off the rails and helping them get back on track.

Mostly. Because there are exceptions. This week I’m rebuilding a website for a company that customizes vehicles for municipalities and other public service sectors. They’re a for-profit company, but when your fire department needs a light bar installed on a pickup truck they make it happen. It all connects.

Your Job vs. Your Work

Yeah, you have a job. Just like I have a job. When you boil it all way down, my job is “code web stuff.”

I’ve been “coding web stuff” for years. And I’m pretty damn good at it. By now, I’ve been at it long enough to know that just “coding web stuff” isn’t good enough.

As much as I enjoy it, it’s not what gets me out of bed and into my office in the morning. I need to know that the stuff I’m coding is having an impact in the real world in ways that I care about. For coding stuff to bring me joy, I need to be coding in partnership with people who are going to use the code to make real people better off.

I want my code to be a part of saving the planet, bringing comfort to kids with cancer, rebuilding schools in war zones, helping small communities find grace, providing access to mental health services. That’s the kind of stuff I want to be a part of. That’s the work I want to do.

What Do You Want to Do?

What good do you want to make possible in the world? Which people are you called to serve? How do you want to accomplish it?

Yeah, sure, you probably have a job. But what’s your work?

Photo credit: Justin See