Don’t just work for money, work for meaning
07 January 19  /  Insights

We understand why so many people stick with jobs that don’t provide meaning—it’s the money. But, imagine spending 40 hours each week doing meaningless work. It’s soul-sucking. But it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have to be that way.

Working “for the money” is not all that bad, as having financial security means we can provide for our families. Although, however important money is, feeling that the work we do is meaningful also matters. It’s better for our health, relationships, and it makes getting up in the morning that much more desirable.

The good news is, there are proactive things we can do to derive more meaning from our work. For some of us, finding that meaning in work might require a new company or career. For others, it could be as simple as reframing how we think about our current jobs and finding new ways to engage our talents.

Here are a few strategies for maximising your sense of meaning:

Craft a new job out of your current job.

Hospital housekeeping isn’t a job that most people would consider meaningful, or even desirable. But Amy Wrzesniewski, now a professor at the Yale School of Management, found that many of the housekeepers she talked to didn’t consider their jobs low skilled or unfulfilling. Instead, they felt they were part of a team that was helping people get better. They may not have been performing surgery or prescribing drugs, but they believed their job was an important part of a bigger process.

In addition to basic cleaning duties, these housekeepers also went out of their way to bond with patients and visitors. They talked to unvisited patients, and even kept in touch with some after they were discharged. Rather than trying to find a different job, these hospital housekeepers had crafted a more meaningful job out of their assigned work.

The job crafting concept can provide a new perspective on the work you do. Your current job might provide opportunities for expression, connection, and creativity that you never realised were there. Try to reconfigure your approach to daily work tasks around these opportunities.

Focus on WHY, not what.

It is so easy to get so bogged down in the things we have to do at work that we lose sight of why we do them. It can be helpful to your sense of meaning to consider the end result of your work, especially as it impacts other people.

For those happy hospital housekeepers, the Why was helping the ill. Your Why doesn’t have to be that altruistic – although, somewhere at the end of all that paperwork and accounting there’s a person with a need you helped fill, a problem you helped solve, an experience of joy you helped deliver.

Your Why could be the meaning you find from engaging your unique skillset. Instead of sagging under the weight of all that copy you have to edit, appreciate how your work engages your writing skills. Maybe a problem along the company’s supply chain engages your critical thinking.

The company itself could also be your Why, if you are working for a business that has a mission that you really believe in. You could also find a meaningful Why in the social bonds you create with the people you work with and the customers who rely on your products and/or services.

You can always find a Why in the things around you. What is your Why?

Examine your mindset.

If adopting a new mindset about your work doesn’t help you find more meaning … try examining your mindsets.

Business writer Dan Pontefract believes that we have three distinct ways of thinking about our work as it relates to our sense of meaning:

The Job Mindset is a “pay check mentality,” in which people perform their jobs purely for compensation.

The Career Mindset is triggered when we focus on advancement: making more money, getting that big promotion, increasing our power or sphere of influence.

Finally, the Purpose Mindset engages our feelings of passion, innovation, and commitment, and an outward-looking focus on serving your employer as a whole.

Pontefract recommends spending a week tracking your mindset. At the end of every day, write down approximately how much time you’ve spent in the Job, Career, and Purpose mindsets. At the end of the week, tally up the totals.

What do these numbers tell you about your mindset at work? Are you spending the majority of your time grinding towards that pay check, or looking for ways to get ahead? How does your time spent in the Job and Career mindsets compare to the time you spend in the Purpose mindset? Can you use job crafting to adjust your mindset and focus your energy more on how your work contributes to something bigger than money?

If you can’t balance out these mindsets in a way that allows you to find more meaning in your work, perhaps it’s time to adjust your role. Or you might need to explore new career paths or new ways to develop yourself, such as learning a new skill.

Whatever you think would give you more meaning in your work, we can discuss this with you and help you position your financial resources to support your decision.

Contact a member of the team on 01865 208012 or click here to request a callback.

Sources:

https://positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu/cpo-tools/job-crafting-exercise/

https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/what-you-can-learn-about-career-satisfaction-from-a-hospital-janitor.html

https://hbr.org/2016/05/youre-never-done-finding-purpose-at-work

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