Good Work Goes Beyond a Paycheck

Education scholar Howard Gardner’s recipe for professional fulfillment

The New York Times’s Sunday Business section had an article on the work of Hobbs professor of cognition and education Howard Gardner, the coauthor of Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet.

Gardner figures in an article from the current issue of Harvard Magazine. A discussion series for first-year students, designed in part by Gardner and offered for the first time last year, is one among several Harvard College initiatives mentioned in the article that encourage students to think about life’s big questions and articulate their own core values.

The Times article, by Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. ’74, gives Gardner’s ideas more space. In analyzing interviews with more than 1,200 American workers, Gardner found that... was a crucial ingredient of good work: “Take teachers in American inner cities. They may be good technically and feel deeply about their responsibility to their students. But if they don’t find joy in their work, they burn out; it’s just too hard. You have to build into hard jobs like that supports and rewards, so that what was initially meaningful and engaging will continue to be so.”

Goleman quotes Gardner’s advice for job hunters:

Decide what you really like to do and what you would like to spend your life doing. That’s more important than deciding what particular job to hold, because the employment landscape is changing radically and quickly. Then ask, "Where could I carry that out?" and be very flexible about the milieu and venue — but not about what you get a kick out of and can be good at.

Read more about Gardner here, or about Goleman here, in the Harvard Magazine archives. 

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