Choosing a Purpose-Filled Career

Finding a purpose-filled career looked a lot easier before college.

My high school calculus teacher pushed me to be an actuary. My high school principal said engineering by way of the Naval Academy would be a keen choice. Another adult suggested radiology because of my interest in physics – and the unbiased fact she was also a radiologist. My early interests certainly leaned towards STEM-oriented fields, but I ended up in the most liberal arts major possible: Communications. How the heck do you find a purpose-filled career in Communications?

What a decade of the “real world” taught me about finding a purpose-filled career.

After graduating with a degree in Communications1, I can safely say that I am nearer to a purpose-filled career than at any point in my 11 post-graduation years. I’ve accomplished this by re-orienting my professional goals to more closely relate to those aforementioned STEM-oriented fields.

Sidebar: I will admit, this post is greatly inspired by two recent reads. The first, “How to Choose Your Purpose-Filled Career” by Leo Babauta, triggered the immediate thoughts of needing to write this post. The second read was an editorial in the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics. And I promise, I will connect Zen Habits to the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics before the end.

Zen Habits and “How to Choose Your Purpose-Filled Career”

Babauta begins his post noting three common ways people say to find a career:

  1. Think about what you like to do
  2. Think about what pays enough, that you can do, and that doesn’t sound so bad.
  3. You’re already doing it

Babuata says, however, there might be another way to choose:

Try to do something to help others or make the world better, that you might enjoy.

After listing examples of careers people commonly aim for (i.e. doctor, teacher), Babauta advises

The point isn’t how you serve the world, but just serving the world in some way will help you feel filled with purpose.

How I Lost Sight of the Purpose-Filled Career.

Early on in my professional career, I did find my career path aligning with a purpose-filled career. I was producing episodes of academic lectures to be aired on Iowa Public Television. My first professional job combined all the things I came to love in college: television and video production, working with teams, creating a quality product, and having access to world-renowned speakers.

My next job — Producer/Director at KSMQ Public Television — is when I began to drift away from a purpose-filled career. I found myself simply trying not to drown, to keep my head above the proverbial waters. While I loved the experience gained, I truly believe those 4-1/2 years as incredibly detrimental to my professional career.

I tried to focus on serving and giving back to the communities I served. Whether through community outreach, community-based programming, or attending community events, I tried to ensure my professional focus was one of service. Looking back, I realize how little I had in terms of professional support and mentorship, and this lack of mentorship contributes greatly to a lack of professional growth and a lack of a purpose-filled career.

Finding a Purpose-Filled Career Today with Marketing Analytics.

Remember at the beginning of this treatise I wrote about being encouraged to enter STEM-oriented fields? If there was ever a student looking for a STEM major in college, it was me. I looked at Big Ten universities with engineering programs. I looked for schools on the cutting-edge of science, computers, and engineering. Then a scholarship came from a liberal arts-focused university. The University of Northern Iowa had everything I wanted, save a world-renowned engineering program. One semester and one Mass Communications course later, I was a declared Communications major.

Was this change one of necessity? Of course. That change, however, has brought many good things in my life, including most importantly my wife, whom I met in my major.

That said, I find myself coming full-circle back towards the fields that inspired my college search over fifteen years ago.

What about the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics?

Over the past few months, I’ve traveled deeper and deeper into the world of SEO, analytics, data management, and marketing automation. This road recently brought me to the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics, whereupon reading the editorial in the latest edition I knew that I found my professional home for the next decade – or more.

Data management practices have not evolved as fast as data science and analytics. While the analytics field has attracted experts from various areas, including maths, physics, finance, marketing, computer science and business in general, the data management field has remained primarily dominated by information technology people, with strong technical backgrounds.

I fully understand marketing analytics isn’t the “bees-knees” for everyone. I’ve discovered an entire world of academics and marketing professionals like me. Two pages of editorial is all I needed to know I am on the right track for my career.

What does this mean moving forward?

I envision my professional focus on analytics and data management only increasing in scope and importance. I hope through my writing my professional goals will bring me closer to a purpose-filled career.