Here’s How To Find Meaning In Your Current Job
Us millennials are a savvy bunch. We know exactly what we want in our careers. Or, if we’re not quite sure, we at least know what it should feel like. To us, work should be fulfilling, provide a greater meaning and purpose to our lives. We won’t settle for just grabbing the cash and running.
The statistics back this up too. Global HR think-tank Reventure discovered that 77 per cent of millennials “are looking for purpose and meaning in their employment.” Damn straight we do. So where exactly can this meaning be found? Is it a particular career path, or a state of mind?
Finding meaning in your job doesn’t mean that you have to drop everything to follow an altruistic path like social work, or teaching. It just means that you have a better understanding of how your day to day work contributes to the larger company, and as an extension, the larger world. It will dispel that idea you’re just another cog in the machine, making the pockets of the fat cats grow deeper.
Here are some ways that you can find purpose in your current job:
Get a mentor
Yes, it sounds like advice you’d see on a careers brochure from the 1980s. But while a little daggy, mentorship is a surefire way to gain a hell of a lot more perspective about where you are in your company and where you’d like to go.
Reventure’s lead researcher Dr Lindsay McMillan reckons that we shouldn’t even call them mentors anymore, because what millennials in the workforce need is so much more. Instead, he suggests that we find a ‘meaning maker’ (I know, that sounds way daggier). “Meaning makers are more than just mentors,” he says. “They are in the workplace and they are the people who can say ‘This is why we exist as an organisation and this is why it matters. A lot of people gain valuable knowledge and advice from a good mentor, but it’s not your mentor’s role to then say, ‘Okay, how does that fit into your life goals and your personal mission?’”
Meaning makers are mentors that are not only concerned with your career goals, but your personal goals as well and find ways to make the two work cohesively together. Yes, it’s a bit of a lame name.
Your meaning maker can be anyone from a supervisor, to a work buddy to someone who works in an entirely different department. Choose wisely, though. You’d want your meaning maker to be successful but also kind and patient.
We talk a lot about how important it is to have friends at work because, it really is. As well as being good for your career progression, having friends at work will remind you that your daily input contributes to a team. And if you really like that team, you’ll want to do good by them. Doing things for other people is one of the pillars of fulfillment.
You should also find ways to make yourself a social asset in the company. Organise charity bake sales, put your hand up for after-work drinks and keep up with your colleague’s personal lives. Be a kind and attentive colleague. It’s underestimated how important this is to your happiness at work.
Come up with a plan
Development plans aren’t just a way to confront you with an impending sense of doom, a way to question your collective goals and achievements and a feeling that you’ve never really “achieved” “anything”.
They can be helpful too!
Sit down with your manager, or even your meaning maker (I know, I know, it still sounds lame), and nut out a bunch of things that you’d like to achieve before the year is out. You can also see how your personal goals correspond with the company’s goals and how you can use that to your advantage. You might be able to apply for some company-funded courses, try out new projects or sit in on some meetings that you previously weren’t privy to.
If you have a very clear idea of where you’re going in your job, you’ll feel like you’re doing a good, purposeful thing.
Approach your seniors
Remember when I mentioned that whole worry about making the fat cats richer? The separation between management and employees is real, and can sometimes lead to resentment. Make friends with your managers instead. If you listen to their stories and perspective, it’ll allow you appreciate how hard they’ve worked to achieve their success and maybe even motivate you to do the same. If they’ve been at the company or one similar for a long period of time, they’ll probably share some insight on their career that you may not have considered before.
The other big thing this does is build a sense of trust. Dr McMillan touched on this in the report too by writing, “A vital determinant of a good leader is trust. If there is not a relationship of trust between leaders and their teams, then any attempt at fostering meaningfulness will likely be unsuccessful.”
Sure, it shouldn’t just be your responsibility to build the trust between you and your managers but if you find that they haven’t made much of an effort, you can take it upon yourself. You might even be able to have a frank discussion about what you’d like to see them do more of.
Making positive changes for the wider team. Look at you!
We all want to think we’re spending our working life contributing to the betterment of the world. In some careers it’s a given, in others not so much. As long as you feel like you’re doing good things, that’s all that matters.