“What is meaningful work, and how do I find it?” is a question that more job seekers are asking than ever before. It makes sense, too, as the average person will spend around 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime.
In this article, I provide a definition of meaningful work and share several examples. I also explain how you can find meaningful work if you’re on the hunt for it.
What Is Meaningful Work?
Over the last decade, I’ve worked one-on-one with more than 1,000 coaching clients and learned a lot about what drives people to get up and go into work (or their home office) each day.
Some of the people I coach find great joy, value, and purpose in their careers and feel fulfilled at the end of each workday. Other people I coach find meaning in the byproducts of their work, such as being able to afford travel, send their kids to college, and live life outside the office.
Through these experiences, I’ve learned that everyone’s definition of “meaningful work” is truly different. I’ve also discovered a common theme among my clients who have a clear sense of what “meaningful work” means to them: they have a clear sense of their long-term goals and values.
To put it simply, people find their work meaningful when it aligns with their goals and values. If you’re feeling like your work isn’t meaningful, it might be because it doesn’t align with your goals and values.
Examples Of Meaningful Work
Before diving into how to find meaningful work, I want to share a few examples of former clients who have identified their work and careers as meaningful:
- A senior nonprofit executive who raised awareness and money for children with developmental disabilities. She found meaning in using her marketing, fundraising, and relationship-building skills to make a positive difference in the lives of those she served.
- A diversity program manager who increased the engineering talent pipeline at a major technology company. They found meaning in using their strategic mindset and project management skills to empower engineers to bring their authentic selves to work.
- A chief product officer who focused significant effort on mentoring his team. He found meaning when his direct reports had big (and small) wins, including landing promotions.
- A finance director who used her detail orientation to help her company achieve compliance for the first time. She found it meaningful to be able to afford private schools and college for her children without taking out student loans.
As you can see, meaningful work has no set definition or attributes. You are the author of the definition and your next destination.
How To Find Meaningful Work
Now that you have a sense of how meaningful work can look and feel, how do you find it for yourself? First, as you might have guessed, you’ll want to get clear on your personal definition of meaningful work. Here are a few questions to guide you in this process:
- What does meaningful work mean to you?
- Why do you want meaningful work?
- How will you know when you’ve found meaningful work?
Next, make a list of potential positions and target companies that will allow you to carry out this work. Additionally, consider whether you might be able to find additional meaning and purpose within your current role, even if it’s just for the time being, until you find a new opportunity.
After you’ve built out your list of prospects, begin researching to learn more about opportunities at your target companies. In addition to researching online communities like Team Blind and Built In, you can harness informational interviews with people at these companies to get a sense of the culture and see if you can envision yourself doing the work.
On a final note, be mindful that finding meaningful work isn’t likely to happen overnight. It’s a process and takes time, so be patient with