Meaning of our jobs

There is a certain quality about the modern appreciation of the meaning of our jobs and the impact we are making in the world. Of course, we have to start by appreciating that to even bother with whether our work is meaningful is in itself a reflection of privilege. It is often because we no longer have to worry that much about bread and butter that we can ponder over whether we should take on a job at a place that makes an impact or not, rather than just deciding whether our work place has a comfortable level of air-conditioning.

But so much of that is actually in story-telling. The banker likes to think that they enable the infrastructure they are financing – just consider how UOB engaging BBC Storyworks to run ads about lighting up Myanmar. Honestly, I’d say it is the businessman who borrowed the money, pulled together the resources and built the power plant who lighted up Myanmar and created jobs. The bank that provides financing shares only part of the risks.

And depending on whether you think McDonalds is bringing happiness or destroying people’s health, you might find working there meaningful or not. Or, if you care just about bringing in the dough in the most pleasant environment, you’d prefer to work at McDonalds compared to a stall at the hawker centers in Singapore that do not have air-conditioning.

So if much of our job’s meaning is storytelling, why don’t we learn to be better at that? And more importantly, why are we not recognising how our employers are trying to define those narratives, and shouldn’t we as employees be holding them accountable to the stories they are telling?