We’ve all heard, based on research and surveys, that the number one thing that millennials are looking for in their job is the sense of purpose and meaning. Let’s not point fingers only at millennials – who wouldn’t like to find purpose in their job? However, purpose or meaning is not something that could be found under a rock, yet inability to find it leaves so many of young people and seasoned professionals unsatisfied with their otherwise great jobs.
There is an important distinction to be made – the work can still be meaningful even if it’s not your life calling. In fact, studies show that less than 50% of people see their work as a calling, yet many more can describe their work as meaningful.
Think about it – most common professions across the world are not doctors or professors, they are retail salespeople, food servers, and clerks. They don’t really sound so uplifting and inspiring to your ear, do they? But they do have something in common with professions we typically associate with purposeful jobs – they all exist to help others.
If you look at the world from this perspective, you can find purpose and meaning in any job or company. After all, if the company you’re working for wouldn’t satisfy anyone’s need in the world, it wouldn’t exist anymore, right? While there are surely exceptions to the above, the key is to realize that perhaps it’s not about a meaningful-vs-meaningless job per se, but it’s about our perception of it.
Here 3 ways to find purpose and meaning in your work:
Connect with the end user.
Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, has shown that people who see their work as a form of giving to others consistently rank their jobs as more meaningful. For example, when university fundraisers had a chance to personally get to know the recipients of the scholarship, they have spent 142% more time on the phone with potential donors and raised 171% more cash than peers. Just as in this case, being able to connect with the end user and to understand how your work helps them can give you the sought sense of purpose.
Connect with the mission of your company.
Just as mentioned above, any existing company has a need that it caters to in the world – whether it’s a fast-food joint or a car manufacturer. If your job does not involve directly facing end clients, one strategy could be to constantly remind yourself of the mission of your company. There is a famous example of a janitor that John F. Kennedy ran into at NASA in 1962. When the president asked him what he was doing, the man said, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
Find purpose in your personal strengths.
The purpose of the work can be both internal and external. If the points above focused on reframing your perspective on the external benefit of your work, the internal benefits are just as important. The positive psychology research shows that people who use their personal strengths on daily basis report are 6x as likely to report higher engagement at work and 3x as likely to report higher life satisfaction levels. In other words, identify your strengths by means of a strength finder tools, discover which strengths your current job enables you to leverage and focus on growing them further.
No one says it’s easy to find their life calling, particularly at work. But it also doesn’t mean that we have to feel meaningless about the job we do. If we change our perspective on what we do and shape it in the way that would leverage our personal strengths, any position can be more meaningful and purposeful.
Discover your strengths by taking the free HIGH5 personality test that is designed to help people live more meaningful lives based on what they are naturally good at – www.high5test.com