Work and the Words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day With His Thoughts on Doing Work That Matters

Martin Luther King, Jr. is known for his tireless work dedicated to making the United States a more open, accepting, and diverse society for African Americans and many others. His influence and actions helped pave the way for the advancement of civil rights in countless areas of American life such as voting, schooling, housing, transportation, and the workplace.

Looking for a job? Sign up for ZipRecruiter!  Get Started

Dr. King believed in the ability of all people to take pride and find meaning in the work they do. He also saw work as a calling that could help others and make the world a better place.

To celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the values Dr. King stood for, we are sharing lessons and quotes from the civil rights leader about work and its role in our lives. We hope they provide you with inspiration as you look for your next great opportunity.

Do Your Work With Pride

A common theme presented by Martin Luther King, Jr. was that everyone should take pride in the work they do. No matter the job, he believed workers must see their role—and by extension, themselves—as important.

“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”

“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music…sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.”

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

The Purpose of Work

Beyond taking pride in one’s work, Dr. King felt it was integral to consider how that work could serve a higher purpose. The work we do should serve the ideal of creating a better world.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

Follow Your Dreams

Whether someone is looking for a new job, interested in switching careers, or striving to succeed in their current role, Martin Luther King, Jr. knew the importance—and intimidation—involved with going after something that seems impossible. As someone who faced and overcame so many obstacles, he knew that it was possible.

“No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

Sources: Entrepreneur, Seattle Times, Yale, Pennsylvania DOE, Do, Inc, Brandeis

Written by

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

More Articles by The ZipRecruiter Editors