When Values + Paycheck = Job Satisfaction

About the author : Liz Barrett

Senior Manager Sales Enablement, Universities

Published on : 2/2/23
  • Earlier this year, my wife and I were watching our daughter’s soccer game when an older gentleman walked over and said hello. At the time, I was nearing the end of my second term as an elected member of our county’s school board and often ran into people with questions or complaints. Inevitably, most folks wanted to chat while I was wearing my dog-walking sweats or perusing anti-wrinkle cream. Fun. Although our school system and county are growing rapidly — from 39,000 students to nearly 46,000 in the eight years I served — our community retains some small-town vibes.  

    This conversation was different. The man shared that he is a proud grandpa to multiple students. He knew my school board term was ending shortly and pointedly asked, “What’s next for you?” I explained that I looked forward to more time with my family, volunteering and playing volleyball. I also told him that I loved my “day job” at Sodexo. His smile faded and he said, “Oh, one of those giant soulless, multinational companies.”  

    I (over)thought about that moment for more than a week. Even a nonpartisan office at the rock bottom of elected government is an exercise in having everyone unhappy with you at some point and having your motivation and often your character constantly in question. Also very fun. Despite my thick skin, his commentary about my job landed hard. Service is important to me, and I want to model that for our three children. Am I less useful or socially productive if I also like my career?   

    Do you feel me getting defensive just writing about it? 

    I recall my mother doing a lot of sighing. (Or was it deep breathing?) She was acutely aware that my sense of justice and empathy was a lot. I was one of those kids who saved injured rodents and reptiles, wrote impassioned letters to the editor and organized rallies. Decades later, I haven’t changed, except I don’t (currently) have a shoebox of orphaned baby rabbits under the bed. My dad was more concerned about me being employable, which was understandable since my childhood was punctuated by his job losses.  

    Gainfully employed since age 14, I’ve tried to balance jobs with community service. Like many folks, working hard and trying to give back is foundational to my sense of purpose. Although my wife’s face clearly read “Please, Liz, don’t engage,” I needed to assure this stranger on the soccer sidelines that I see value in my work beyond the paycheck. Yes, we sell services and solutions, but one of the reasons I applied for work at Sodexo is that the company leads with relationships and investment in community —plus clear and measurable action on sustainability and ending hunger.  

    Big companies like Sodexo can have commensurate impact for good.  

    During my last five years at Sodexo, I have encountered leaders who elevate others, particularly women, and some of my colleagues have been promoted many times since they first started in college work-study jobs or as interns. To be clear, before I accepted a job with Sodexo, my own bias fueled my perception that sales and marketing would involve a lot of corporate bros and perhaps some intolerance. Instead, my direct supervisors are smart, supportive women I admire and who constantly help me stretch my brain. They like to win. They also talk refreshingly about the ways they balance family and work.  

    This is also the first job — ever — where I don’t fear being gay will harm my employment or promotion status. Even in 2023, being out at work is something I don’t take for granted because so many others work and live in and out of the closet.

    For several years, I worked in management consulting, swooping in to help federal clients with policy or operational issues. While I loved that work, I felt there wasn’t enough time to understand the organization’s deeper needs. Now, our team’s work enhances the client’s organizational culture and mission, not overshadows it.  

    I support Sodexo’s Campus team, and I’ve been fortunate to help research the needs and challenges of today’s college and high school students so we can support them from admission to graduation. Check out our research

    My empathy hasn’t been diluted. Rather, it is essential to my work. Behind the survey results, I see the students who are struggling, and I hear the challenges of campus leaders. The best part is that my colleagues care about student academic and social success and their emotional and physical wellness as much as I do, and we are positioned to help.   

    So, to answer his question — what’s next for me? It has always been and will always be congruence between my values and my paycheck.