What Do I Do When My Job Feels Useless?

by | Dec 8, 2014

What is the most useless job in America?

If you’re like most people, you probably think, “mine,” every once in a while.

But if you’re Mike Rowe, asking that question is absurd.

Mike Rowe is the icon of the American working man, profiling workers of all stripes his shows Dirty Jobs and
Somebody’s Gotta Do It.

In a recent interview with Men’s Journal, he reveals a deep truth about value of work.

When asked his opinion of the most useless job in America, he responded like this:

The big lesson from Dirty Jobs is that there’s no such thing as a useless job. When I see people whistling while they work and the job is picking up road kill, you’ve gotta laugh. You just have to say, God, these guys have figured out a way to have a good time while picking up road kill, which by the way, I didn’t know this, but if the people who pick up road kill all called in sick for two weeks anytime between the months of August and March, there would be a transcontinental highway gridlock. The amount of dead animals pulled off the road through about 25 or 30 states in the middle is breathtaking. 

The example seems extreme, but it hits the bull’s-eye: people are interdependent and even the craziest of jobs matters. Our roles – even the mundane ones – can achieve a greater aim of serving others and society at large.

For the Christian, we can go deeper: work matters because it serves others and because it is one of the chief ways in which we model God’s work as his image-bearers. That gives it dignity. We can worship God through it.

Worshipping God and serving others through our work should be natural for the Christian. Unfortunately, many have wrongfully deduced that their “secular” job is only as important as their ability to evangelize.

While we must work to reconcile others to God (2 Cor. 5:17-21), be prepared to share our hope (Col 4:6, 1 Peter 3:15) and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20, Acts 1:8), our motivation for our work will eventually run dry if we do not grasp the more accurate and fuller picture of how we can worship God and serve others through the work itself.

So how can we cultivate an attitude of worship and service in our work?

  • Express gratitude privately: thank God for the engineers and road pavers on your commute; thank him for the chemists, manufacturers, truck drivers, buyers and stock boys when you wash your hair; thank him for the farmers, entrepreneurs and waiters when you’re out to dinner.
  • Express gratitude publicly: recognize when people do a good job and thank them for it. When God finished his work in creation, he recognized that it was good (Gen. 1:31). As creatures in his image, we all have the desire to do good work and have good work recognized.
  • Identify the value of your work: take a few moments to think through how your specific job serves other people and contributes to society. Seeing purpose in our work is powerful fuel.

These three simple actions will produce in us a greater appreciation for how God works through all people and it will generally make us more others-oriented.

And when our focus in our work is glorifying God and serving others then we will find a deep and sustainable motivation for our work, because glorifying God and serving others – whether through waiting tables, analyzing sales data and recommending product assortment, or even cleaning road kill – is always good and useful work.

Photo of Ben Kirksey

Ben Kirksey

Ben Kirksey is the Chief Operating Officer for Workmatters. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas (2006, Economics and Political Science), and alumnus of Teach for America. He realized a passion for integrating faith and work while at Northstar Partnering Group (now Field Agent™) and subsequently co-founded the Workmatters Institute in 2010.