When it comes to career planning, the criterion for a suitable job doesn’t usually include meaning and purpose.
I never had a counselor or well-intentioned adult ask me, “What kind of work would be meaningful to you?”
It makes sense that this isn’t a common sentiment. Meaning is subjective and isn’t as simple to quantify as work skills, salary, stability, or prestige.
However, what people view as important for their career is changing. Along with the traditional measures of success, it’s becoming more common for people to determine a career path through the lens of meaning and purpose.
If you don’t have a sense of meaning and purpose from your current work, don’t worry, you can produce it.
Here are five ways to generate more meaning in your work.
1. Know your “Why”
Author and speaker Simon Sinek has made it clear that we should “start with why,” and get clear on the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires us to do what we do.
Why do you do the work you do? More importantly, is your answer to that question meaningful to you?
When we lose connection to why we do what we do it becomes just another obligation and task. What’s the deeper reason you do your work?
If this isn’t clear to you, decide and create a meaningful “why”. Stand for something and consider how you can make a difference.
2. Don’t limit yourself to a job title
Just because you have a specific job title doesn’t mean you have to inhibit your level of influence and involvement. If there is a way to step-up and add more value than do it.
Early in my career I worked at a psychiatric hospital as an aid to the medical staff. I did the dirty work, was the patent grunt, and let’s just say I didn’t feel a sense of significance based on my job title and duties. But, when I would make an effort to connect more deeply with the patients and offer addition support to nurses I felt much more meaning and purpose.
If your current roll isn’t offering much meaning consider how you can expand your role in an appropriate way to encompass more significant and meaningful responsibility.
3. Seek like-minded colleagues
We’re social creatures and relationships are critical for well-being and a sense of meaning. Making positive connections to colleagues is an important way to enhance career-orientated meaning.
When we have meaningful work relationships we’ll have increased levels of enjoyment and also have a greater level of emotional support.
Seek colleagues who share your values and who also desire more meaning on the job. Connect with colleagues who are dependable and have a positive attitude. From here start to build a reciprocal relationship where you can add mutual value and support to each other.
4. Learn, grow, and evolve
When we aren’t growing and being challenged by your work it’s likely to become mundane and routine. Not only that, but if you’re not learning you’re probably falling behind. The world moves fast and it’s becoming a necessity to learn how to adapt to change.
Remain ambitious and have clear goals that challenge you. Choose to learn deliberately and increase moments of flow.
What is one new skill or capacity you can learn? How can you build on your strengths and improve on a weakness?
5. Create more autonomy
People like being able to make their own choices. We like to decide when we work and what to work on.
More people are working remotely or from home which allows them to live a lifestyle they find meaningful.
If you want to feel fond of your work create more autonomy and freedom in your schedule and level of decision making.
You can make your work more meaningful, but you may need to get creative.
Apply and implement ideas from this post or consider other ways to create meaning based on your work situation and personal preferences.
Photo credit: Esther Max