Is your job a means to an end?
Or is it an integral part of your life and identity?
Do you approach your job as a set of tasks to get through?
Do you consider your job a source of fulfillment and self-expression?
I remember my first job out of college, I was in an administrative role working at an hospital. Although I was happy to have a job, it was a means to an end. I failed to see how my work had a direct impact on serving the patients in a meaningful way. I mean really, would any of the spreadsheets and reports I generated make a difference in someone’s life? It was not until my role expanded and I worked in the ICU among the actual patients, that I immediately saw how my job served an integral part of the hospital’s mission.
Finding purpose and personal fulfillment in our careers is something a lot of us struggle with. We all want it but so few of us have it. It’s been found that the top priority among working people is the desire to have greater meaning and a sense of purpose in their careers. I hear statements from my clients all the time like these: “I just want my work to mean something” or “I want my work to make a greater contribution”. In a recent analysis of more than 11,000 employees, the strongest predictor of meaningfulness was the belief that the job had a positive impact on others. Simply put, we just want to know that our work impacts people in a positive way or serves a larger purpose in the world.
So how do we go about finding more meaning in our jobs? Some may find that switching jobs and doing something they're more passionate about might do the trick. But before you go dusting off your resume, here are a few ways you can start bringing more meaning into your 9 to 5.
Think about the end-user of your product or service. Whether you’re selling widgets, running reports, or directly serving customers at a restaurant, think about the person you are serving and how they will ultimately be impacted by your company’s product or service. See beyond the task of the job and connect with the giving aspect of your role. I love this study that shows when radiologists saw a patient’s photo (source) included in an x-ray file, they wrote more meticulous reports and admitted feeling more empathy towards the patient.
Create deeper SOULcial connection. Sometimes all we need is a moment or two of deep meaningful connection. When we make our time on the job all about status meetings, project deadlines, or sales orders we’re missing out on opportunities to have deeper engagement with the people around us. Take time out with your coworkers, your manager, or even a client to have meaningful conversation that is not work related. Invite them out for coffee or lunch and ask about their family, their passions, or even their hometown where they grew up. Trust me, there is a place for these conversations in business and you never know what you’ll gain from a simple conversation.
And finally explore more creative ways to do your work. When we see our job descriptions as fixed, we overlook opportunities to approach our work from a fresh perspective or we don’t take initiative to try something new. Get creative in crafting your job to fit your strengths and interests by eliminating or reducing time spent on mundane tasks.
When we shift into exploring ways to help others and engage in deeper beyond the surface interactions through our work, it is there where we will find meaning and the chance to contribute to something much greater than ourselves.
Keep me posted on how it goes firstname.lastname@example.org.
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