Our purposes are what separate us from other forms of life on Earth. Our animal and plant friends have limited reasons for doing the things they do: most are related to survival or basic social functions. We humans, however, have a complex set of reasons that motivate us to act. Many of these reasons can even overlap with each other.

Having our reasons for being employed is no exception to this phenomenon. We each have our own justifications for it, which nevertheless are not always clear or obvious to us.

So why do we want to pursue employment opportunities? At least one of the following may be true for you – and it may even be two or more!

1. “I need to earn a living.” – The most logical of motivations, this follows from the awareness that compensation derived from employment enables us to provide for our basic needs and arbitrary wants. The mantra for this is, “If I work, I earn. If I earn, I can buy what my family and I need to survive and be happy.”

2. “This is what I’ve always wanted to be.” – Careers are born out of the deep, genuine desire to perform a certain role in society. This is when people become doctors, law enforcers or pilots because they had always wanted to be. This can also involve specifically targeting ideal well-known employers or specialized positions. People who pursue employment due to this are often visibly happier and have a greater sense of belonging in their work environment.

3. “I’m bored, and I don’t want to be.” – The feeling that there is an empty chunk of your life is a frequent source of restlessness for the unemployed. In some cases, this boredom can come close to feelings of not having a purpose. Employment becomes the solution to this boredom. People with this reason become employed because they simply have nothing better to do.

4. “Everyone else I know is employed.” – Sometimes, seeing family or friends being employed can evoke feelings of not being productive or helpful to their families, at varying degrees of intensity. This unfortunate “bum” state is often the source of a self-imposed quest to become employed. Fresh graduates are especially prone to having this experience as their colleagues become professionals much earlier than they do.

5. “I want to be associated with this company or job title.” – In many cases, this may overlap with number 2. This is when a person seeks to join an employer or acquire a position because of the prestige it entails. Being able to share with others that you work for an industry’s big player or that you have so-and-so titles attached to your name can seem like a self-serving ego trip, but there are times that people go this route to alleviate the pressure of very high expectations and harsh criticism family or peers.

6. “I want to get rich.” – And who wouldn’t? The difference here is that people who prioritize this reason would only consider the others on this list as secondary reasons. For such people, success is primarily measured in the material aspect. This is when wealth is the final goal, and there are actually people who are so motivated by money in this fashion. For cases when the reason for wanting to get rich is to provide for oneself and one’s family, see number 1 on this list instead.

7. “I want to be a productive and helpful member of society.” – Altruism is key here. This is being employed for the sake of doing your part as a member of the human race. This is especially noticeable in service professions, where the service being provided is seen as beneficial to others. People who follow this reasoning to become employed often have a higher level of accomplishment and contentment in their work and their lives in general.

8. “I believe in my prospect employer’s principles and goals.” – Having a goal or an advocacy that match a prospect employer’s vision and mission can overlap with number 7. In essence, having this reason means you want to accomplish your personal mission through the work that you could be doing for your prospect employer.

9. “I really don’t know, but people are supposed to work and this job is better than nothing.” – Getting employed because it is the natural “next move” for someone who has finished their education is the most primal or instinctive of the motivations for employment. Of all the possible reasons, this is the one that calls for the deepest reflection since it can lead a person to discover their true reason for pursuing employment.

Any or all of these reasons can be considered factors in deciding our career path. For first-time jobseekers, a greater awareness of personal motivations can make the jobseeking process much clearer. For people who have been employed before or are currently employed, these reasons can influence either career development or shifting.

As we become more aware of the factors involved in getting employed, being certain of our motivation is a great step in making us more employable. It enables us to fully commit to the employment opportunity that we could be given, thereby allowing us to embrace our work for everything that it is. It is in knowing why we work from the bottom of our hearts that we can put aside any doubts of where we truly belong.

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