Do you ever get the feeling that life is trying to tell you something? Right now I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that meaningful work is the secret to a long and happy life.
I've recently started tuning into the Chris Evans show in the morning. I enjoy the show, and I can relate to Evans' interest in personal growth literature. He recently interviewed Hector Garcia, the author of Ikigai, a book about the famously long-lived Okinawan islanders' secrets to a long and happy life. After hearing the interview, I quickly bought the book. I loved it. Its central premise is that the key to a life well-lived is the Japanese concept of ikigai – purpose. Finding that purpose is what keeps people going, and it is important to find it in work. Garcia recommends that people do not give up work, for meaningful work is one of the secrets to staying young.
Meaningful work is work you love, work that energises you and speaks to the core of your identity. Personally, I have always been fascinated by people, and that's where I find my motivation. In my recruitment career my interest has been particularly around what drives different individuals, but I always loved the differences between each of us. I can remember Harvest Festivals from my childhood: I enjoyed them because I used to deliver food to elderly people in my neighbourhood. I loved meeting them and hearing their stories. To this day, I enjoy people – I don't care whether you're much older than me or much younger – I'm interested and I can learn something from you.
So recently I welcomed an opportunity to get to know a lot of new people. With a number of my team on holiday, I found myself manning the desks and speaking to a great many new candidates, something I still enjoy. I passionately believe that if you're not interested in people and their career choices then you shouldn't be a recruiter.
What I most love about my chosen career is the opportunity to get to know individuals beyond their CV or their latest standout professional achievement. Because for all of us there are a few special jobs, a particular career or employer, that might be the choice that helps us live a long and happy life. And very often the key to identifying that is to be found beyond a CV.
For example, here's something only a very few friends know about me: I always harboured ambitions to be a DJ. In my younger days I had a trial at one of the first private radio stations. I gained some work experience there but at the time couldn't afford the qualifications required to work in the industry. But I still love radio and DJing, the inspiration for this blog. And talking to people was one of the things I most enjoyed about the job.
Back to those conversations, then. I recently had occasion to speak to an individual in his early twenties, at the very start of his career. Even with my experience and the thousands of individuals I have met and learned from, I found him inspiring and utterly fascinating. For starters he was very outward-looking, taking great interest in people around him. But more than that, he had an interesting attitude towards his career that I haven't seen in a young professional until very recently; perhaps a sign of the times and the shifting attitude towards work that is being reported from so many sources.
This candidates' father had retired very young, and was bored. And my candidate wanted to avoid that fate at all costs. His plan, he said, was to get a job for about a year, then travel for a while to gain more life experience, and then get a "serious" job when he discovers more about what makes him happy in life. Why? Because he doesn't really want to retire. Instead, he wants to find a job he loves so that he can enjoy working late into his life. He doesn't distinguish between "work" and "the rest of life".
The older members of Generation Z – individuals born between 1996 and 2010 - are now entering the workforce. They are recognised for their interest in career growth: their ability to envisage their future life has a significant impact on their career choices. It's important for employers to understand their motivations, because we may be witnessing a real difference in the expectations of a new generation compared to those who have gone before. I can only wonder what working life will look like for those entering the workforce now. Perhaps generation Z in this country will nail the secret to a long and happy life more than any generation before them.
By the way, I've lately considered buying some record decks and have even threatened to throw down some vinyl at our next office party! If it happens, we'll be sure to share the pictures. You're never too old to DJ, and perhaps the key to a productive life is to keep the plates spinning.