Working with a Purpose vs. Discovering Purpose through Work

Discovering purpose through work is a new concept to me as I have begun to experiment with expanding my skill set and delving into new experiences. My interactions with other students and the campus community have brought me a long way. The social skills that I have developed as a result of the experiences are not something I could have planned to achieve, and I would not have learned them from textbooks. These practical skills have built on my pre-set purpose: I still aim for a career in the sciences, but my purpose now also includes the incorporation, and even emphasis, of the necessity of communications and teamwork.

I continue to work with a purpose, towards graduating with a degree in biochemistry. However, I have realized the importance of experience and the discovery of purpose through work. I had never imagined that I would be working in a laboratory for cancer research. I feel that I have learned more from working in the lab than I have from poring over textbooks. It is the focused knowledge associated with the specialization as well as the hands-on application that have intrigued me and have helped me hone in on a career in the pharmaceutical industry.



I entered the university with a purpose to study the biological sciences. I had declared a major in biochemistry and determined the courses that I would be taking every semester until graduation. I had even accounted for summer and winter courses along the way! The courses seemed difficult, but I continued to take on the challenge to learn the material presented to me. In discussions with my friends during freshman year, it seemed that all that really mattered to us were grades and maintaining a strong GPA for medical or graduate school. I determined a long-term goal and worked towards meeting the short-term goals that would lead to my eventual success in reaching graduate school. I was working with a clear purpose in mind.

I could have retained this mindset, but I made what I consider to be a “wise decision”: I opened up to becoming more involved in campus organizations and other opportunities. Now in junior year, I have several friends who are still focused on working straight from point A to point B and have therefore led a very narrow existence in the university. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I remained so aloof, so close-minded, and so unwilling to participate in the rest of the opportunities that the university and the campus community had to offer. I, unlike my friends, began to drift along my undergraduate pathway, not because I was losing focus from my major and scientific interests, but because I wanted to explore other options available to me.

As an undergraduate, I quickly learned that one can only go so far with theoretical knowledge; the true test is in the practical applications and interactions with the rest of the world. What good is knowing the theory if one cannot practice it or communicate its importance to the rest of the world? How does one learn and share the information?

I have also taken the chance to become involved in service activities that may not directly seem to be related to my career path. The skills that I have acquired in the process are indeed valuable, though. In the process, I have developed leadership skills and communication skills, both of which are necessary for a professional and an organization to succeed. While I have learned how to make presentations in the classroom, I felt the true reward when I organized a team of peer advisors to work with a group of students in determining their progress towards graduation. Theoretical knowledge – in this case, being aware of university academic policies – gave us the basis of aiding the students; what made a difference were our conversations with the students and the comfort that our guidance provided as our team of peer advisors explained the policies to the students. Such experiences have given me the confidence to grow and build on my purpose as I develop into a professional.

3 thoughts on “Working with a Purpose vs. Discovering Purpose through Work

  1. I overhear a lot of these conversations at lunch or on the train. Some students can go into details for hours and hours about what their “plan” for their college life is. Nine times out of ten those same people fall silent when they talk about themselves; their interests and hobbies and friends remain obscured behind a master plan. I once saw another post on the Internet explaining that college is comprised of three things–good grades, enough sleep, and social life–and that to survive, you could only pick two. Part of college is doing one’s best to find a balance between the three, which is no easy task.
    You bring up a lot of very good points and issues that undergrads face every day. We spend all of our time studying and doing homework and taking exams, but there’s very little time or opportunities to do the things that matter to us. You want to graduate Pre-Med? Okay, but you first have to take several math courses, a writing course, and more natural science courses than you can stomach, and if you have the room, you can squeeze in one or two classes that will actually be relevant to becoming a doctor. Not to mention that you also have to take several other classes and be well-studied in fields that have nothing to do with medicine. It’s great that you’ve had a chance to work in cancer research and managed to learn a lot, and it’s a shame that this institution (one of many) doesn’t go out of their way to make opportunities like these more readily available to their students. The purpose of college is to figure out what you want to contribute to the world, but it’s lost under a sea of prerequisites.

  2. This was quite an intriguing topic I have never heard of before. I liked how you began with your own experiences to show how such a subject matter has become personal for you. Your argument sounds both factual and opinionated, which does cover quite a bit of ground. If anything, I recommend lokking over this entry and checking on the grammar. Some lines like at the end of the third paragraph sounded kind of awkward. But this is a very minor complaint. Otherwise, this was an excellent blog worth reading.

  3. This is a really good point. I feel that being involved in what you are learning can greatly improve your chances of staying in a certain field because you understand and are applying. If you aren’t involved you tend not to see the fruits of your labor. It is also good to meet others like you. Sharing your thoughts with others can often reassure you as well. I like this post.

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