“Is meaningful work important to you?” After completing some polling on LinkedIn, it seems “YES” is the run-away winner. Great news? Not so much. Sadly, finding meaning in one’s work is not quite as easy as falling off a log . . . but don’t give up hope just yet.
Whether you are an individual trying to find a job that brings meaning to your life or a corporate leader wanting to create a meaningful workplace for a variety of individuals, the diagram here is a great starting point for your consideration.
In short, meaningful work can come from 3 areas:
Meaningful Work Level #1: The organization itself – the work itself and the people at work – make work feel meaningful. For example, this means that in an organization that makes widgets the organization believes they make the best widgets possible and the team is supportive and appreciative of the role you play in making high quality widgets.
Meaningful Work Level #2: The center ring of the diagram shows that when work is in harmony (and NOT in conflict) with employees’ lives and needs, then employees find work to be consistent with the meaningfulness of their life. Think of jobs at organizations that have generous vacation packages, paid parental leaves, and work-from-home options.
Meaningful Work Level #3: When work is directly connected to making the world a better place, it fits in the outer ring. The giving-back professions (like those in healthcare and teaching) are more likely to be classified as Meaningful Work #1 jobs.
As I noted in prior posts, I taught for 17 years at the college level, but it took me about 5 years to find this “outer-ring, giving-back” position meaningful. I had some work to do on myself before I could accept the true meaningfulness (a word?) of the job. I needed to feel seasoned and capable BEFORE I could connect to and appreciate the fact that I was making a difference in the education of others . . . that I was skilled enough to be a favorite faculty member or my class could rank among one of my students’ favorites.
Since “retiring” from my side-gig of teaching in 2019, I have put all my meaningful eggs in my coach/author basket. I relish the wins that my clients achieve and delight in the feedback I get from those who have read my books and found them helpful. I deeply appreciate how my work is meaningful TO ME on all three levels discussed above. Of course, the emphasis above (TO ME) is clear . . . it only matters what I think. Right?
So, the question is up to you. Are you looking for meaningful work? If so, which level is most important? Do you need to change? Does the work need to change? Does your organization need to change? The quest for meaningful work is not always linear, nor is it always easy, but it is definitely worth it.
Go find it! (Let me know if you need any help!)