Take Your Job to the Grave


So, you may be thinking there’s an error in the title of this post. Is it missing a “Don’t” or “You can’t” at the beginning?

Nope – you read it right. It says to take your job to the grave, and here’s why…

New answers to age-old questions.

I’ve been reflecting this past weekend on the inspiring career of my aunt, Mary Jo Scalzo, who just retired as Superintendent of Oakwood City Schools in Dayton, Ohio. Mary Jo worked in a variety of roles in the education field for 41 years, including that of a teacher. In a recent article in the Dayton Daily News, she shared her passion for teaching: “No career is more rewarding than teaching. It provides an opportunity to affect someone’s life. It’s very powerful and meaningful.”

Even in retirement, Ms. Scalzo has accepted a position as Executive Director of a consortium of school administrators committed to providing quality professional development and coaching for education leaders.

As I reflect on my aunt’s career, I’ve been asking myself the following questions:

1. Will Mary Jo be “taking her job to the grave”?


2. Did she put in some late night and weekend hours and have to make sacrifices in other areas of her life?


3. Is that okay?


4. Did she make a positive impact on the lives of others through her work?


5. Would she do it all over again?


We spend a lot of time at work.

We always hear people say that you can’t take your job to the grave with you…That in the end, this is not what matters…That you need to spend more time with family and friends doing the things you love and making a more meaningful impact on the world. We’re told that if we don’t do these things, we’ll regret it in our final hour.

But wait – why can’t you make a meaningful impact, tap into your passions and strengths, and develop deep and impactful relationships with others through your work? Why are we told that putting “too much” of ourselves into our work is a bad thing?

Take a look at these staggering statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Time spent at work

The fact that we spend on average 8.8 hours on work-related activities per work day means that we spend just shy of 100,000 hours working between the ages of 22-65.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I’m willing to sweep under the rug and approach with an apathetic attitude. Talk about something I would regret in my final hour – it would be how I spent that large amount of time!

How can I make the best use of 100,000 hours of my life?

So you might not be in a role that you feel is as impactful or meaningful as an educator, healthcare provider, social worker, organizational leader or CEO, etc.  The good news is that you don’t have to be. Anyone in any role can turn those hours into something that makes an impact, something you’re proud of, and something that you don’t regret when reflecting on how you spent your physical time here on Earth.

The reality is that we have to work. That truth is not going away (unless you win the lottery), so let’s make the most of it. Here’s how:


Tap into your heart and get engaged.

A recent study by Gallup revealed that 71% of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from work. That’s one heck of a way to spend 100,000 hours! Click here to learn 6 ways to take ownership of your engagement at work and start putting your heart in the game. You will find your job much more fulfilling if you do. Don’t wait on someone else to do this for you – use your own power of choice.

Add value to those around you.

Leadership guru John C. Maxwell often shares this core tenant of leadership – add value to others. Just by saying your please’s and thank you’s, lending a helping hand to colleagues, and putting the needs of others in your workplace above your own, you can make a very meaningful impact on the lives of others. No doubt you will take those meaningful contributions to the grave. This is completely regardless of the field, role, or position level you’re in.

Align work with your strengths and purpose.

Whenever possible, align your strengths and what you may have discovered is your overall purpose in life with your career. For more on this, check out my esteemed colleague Erin Schreyer’s recent post on the topic. Erin is a certified leadership and talent management coach and strengths trainer and has very insightful thoughts to share on this matter.

Work is not everything, but it is one thing.

Work should certainly not take up your entire focus in life – there are obviously other very important facets of your life that you will take to the grave, including family, friends, hobbies and faith just to name a few. You need to determine the “balance” that is right for you so that you can live every aspect of your life to its fullest.

However, according to the graph above, it is a significant aspect of our lives, so let’s make the most of it. This post is a tribute to Mary Jo Scalzo, who made the most she could of her 100,000 hours. I hope you choose to do the same!

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