What do I want to do for a living?

264800_226381044058708_4933313_nWritten By Allison Smith, Thrive

We can all relate to the heavy, difficult question “What do I want to do for a living?” It’s a tough question, that means something different to everyone. It’s not just a question for recent high school grads anymore.

How we spend those 40 some hours a week can have a huge impact on our environment and community. Even more, our love/hate relationship with our work is bound to seep into our personal lives. It can cause inner turmoil and conflict if our work isn’t aligned with our values, our skills and our passion. It’s not a question to passively look over or neglect to reflect upon.

To help tackle this tough and important issue, is Alla Guelber, the founder of the Meaningful Work Project.

Many different pieces led Alla to start the Meaningful Work Project which is a workshop to help participants understand what meaningful employment is to them and how to achieve it. Primarily, Alla was having a hard time finding opportunities that resonated with her, and provided the work-life balance she desired. “I had a hard time figuring out where do I fit in? What do I want to do?” Alla explained. Something that many of us can relate to.

The workshop started in 2010 and brings together individuals with diverse backgrounds, at different stages of their professional and personal life. There are scientists, yoga teachers, students, journeyman pipefitters and so on. “Meaningful work is relevant to any professional background,” explained Alla.


The workshop uses  communities of practice, which  are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor. In this case, finding meaningful employment. “Our dialogue-based educational programs help individuals and communities progress toward living within resilient ecosystems and a thriving local economy,” said Alla. The workshop takes an interdisciplinary approach that includes participatory dialogue and systems thinking. “We design, develop and implement custom learning opportunities,” she added.

Meaningful employment to Alla, is work that is of service to people and the planet. It creates value for both the individual doing the work, and the global community. Though it’s hard to create a concise definition, since it varies for each person.  For Alla, there’s a level of autonomy, satisfaction and the ability to support yourself financially.The retreat will help participants understand what meaningful work means to them, and what they need to do to navigate non-linear career paths while making social and environmental impact.

“Our whole economy is built on the scarcity model. We’re not enough. We don’t have enough education. It’s always about getting more. More stuff. With every man for themself,” explained Alla. The MWP moves away from this model towards a collective model. It helps people realize they have access to human, personal and social assets that reach beyond just their jobs. It promotes the development of mutual relationships, where you can share skills, expertise and connections.


Past participants have raved about the workshop and it’s diverse, collaborative approach in addressing “What do I want to do for a living?”. One success story includes Danielle Carruthers,  who created theSedge.org after attending the retreat in 2010. theSedge.org helps non-profit organizations build successful social enterprises to fund their social programs.

This year the third Meaningful Work Project  will be held at the Alpine Club of Canada Clubhouse in Canmore, October 25th-27th. Guest mentors will share their perspective around meaningful work and economic transition. Below is a list of the awesome and knowledgeable presenters:

Finding meaningful work is a universal drive that we all can relate to. Whether you want to improve your current career or completely switch career paths, the workshop can handle that type of diversity. It offers an opportunity to ask the scary, uncertain questions, and help to answer the looming, “What do I want to do for a living?”. Learn more about the Meaningful Work Project here: meaningfulworkproject.ca

An introduction the MWP: https://vimeo.com/68207963


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