How To Find A Meaningful Job

finding meaningful work


Mar. 17 2015, Published 3:30 a.m. ET

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The work place has evolved from a menial 9-5 into a more meaningful part of life. We (the millennials) seek work that fulfills our bills, and our life’s purpose. We seek not only work-life integration, but to be personally satisfied and engaged with our work.

You’ll see this desire reflected in millennial’s wish list for employers. The list includes: strong values, a blend of work and life, and development of skills for the future. According to research published by Harvard Business Review, millennials are a workforce that is more culturally rich and socially conscious than previous generations.

The key question is: How do we finda position with purpose?

1. Take an inward tour of yourself.

Where would you like to make an impact? What are your values? What are the issues at large that really matter to you?

One young woman I spoke with, Alexa Donnelly, discovered during college that she wanted to contribute to equal opportunity, specifically for those with disabilities. She wanted to “enhance their quality of life” and give them the chance to “become a successful member of the community.”

“The first time I knew I wanted to work in a helping profession was when I began working with a teenage girl who was diagnosed with multiple personality disorders,” explained Donnelly. “She opened my eyes to how differently everyone sees and interacts with the world.”

She is now working toward her masters in Social Work while working at a day habilitation center innovating new programs to help clients of all ages. Her advice is: “Find something you can do for countless hours and feel like you haven’t worked a moment.”

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2. Create a list to help you visualize your values and entitle it something like “issues I care about” or “My values.

You may find that you care most about our youth, economically challenged or even a specific geographic area. Items on the list should be concise, for example, “the homeless in my city” or “elderly in my hometown.”

If some of you are concerned about money, a practical concern to have, not all “meaningful work” is non-profit. It simply goes back to the question: Where would you like to make an impact? One person I spoke with, Giancarlo Conti, noted that his parents frequently fought and struggled with money when he was growing up. The stress of living tightly with money never left his mind. In college he wanted to learn everything he could about money, how to manage and control it, and how to make it work for individuals.

Financial literacy became an important mission to him. He found an internship and even passed licensing exams while finishing up his degree in Finance. He now has the chance to help people make sense of complex investments. “The end game is to help clients grow and preserve their wealth and understand what they invest in. I like knowing I could help someone decipher a product and figure out if it’s a good fit for them and their life goals.”

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3. Join a movement!

Volunteering is a major help in allowing you to practice your passion. Perhaps the previous step gave you just an inkling of what would be fulfilling for you. Immersing yourself around what you think moves you will give you real insight. You may find that you actually connect with children more than adults or with animals more than humans! This method is great for those already employed. It’s like getting a “day in the life” tour, while still keeping your day job. In either case the experience will bring you closer to finding your purpose. Try Volunteer Match:

4. Examine companies’ mission statements

Thanks to an increase in socially conscious consumers, companies are finding ways to connect through philanthropic efforts. Their mission statement will usually include corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. CSR refers to a company’s efforts in environment and social welfare. Some companies may refer to it as “sustainability” or “corporate citizenship.” Search for any of these terms on the company’s website. You can then assess: Do I believe in their mission? Do I stand for the same things they do? Would I feel good about working for this company?

Hint: This could be your “angle” in an interview to help land a job there!

5. “Hang around the hoop.”

The more you explore a certain cause, get involved and talk to people, the better your chances are for finding a job that helps you feel fulfilled. Some other resources include the work of Stew Friedman on “work life integration” at The University of Pennsylvania. Freidman created a tool called “Four Circles” to identify how important each domain of life is to you:

There is also an exercise found on that assists in identifying career values. For instance, do you value recognition in your job? Or, perhaps you value a supportive environment where your morals are never comprised. You can take a quick assessment here:

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