If you ask any high-level executive or CEO what makes their employees happy at their workplace, their response would likely have to do with their company’s salary or benefits; perhaps they would even say something like casual Fridays. Sure, these are necessary to promote employee satisfaction, but they are not the only factor ensuring employees are fulfilled in their careers.
When it comes to finding importance and feeling connected to our work, having a meaningful job is far more essential to creating an environment where people are energized and excited to come to work.
What does finding meaning at work look like?
The concept of finding meaning at work may be easily confused with finding purpose in your job or feeling happy in general. While these aspects are positively correlated, they don’t always mean the same thing. Finding meaning could be defined in several ways. Typically, it describes something with implied or explicit significance or an important/worthwhile quality.
When we talk about finding meaning at work, we can generalize beyond the individual experience and find certain qualities that most people see in meaningful careers. For example, in her new Mindset Matters book, my friend Gemma Leigh Roberts writes that meaning can show up as micro-meaning moments – small moments of gratitude from a customer or giving your support to a colleague when they need it.
Of course, what each person finds significant or meaningful differs, but some overarching elements influence our feelings of meaning at work. For example, fostering relationships with coworkers, managers, and even customers can help provide a sense of meaning, as well as helping others when they’re in need can help to form an authentic connection between our broader life’s purpose and our career.
Why is a meaningful career important?
Since we spend such a significant amount of time working, It’s important to help promote passion, increase motivation, and elevate overall job satisfaction.
When someone finds meaning in the job they do daily, it’s easier to stay happy and productive. Not only does the unique connection to your workplace improve mental and physical health, but a job that we find important also creates more positive vibrations, both inside and outside of business hours.
Creating more opportunities for meaning
Cultivating a workplace conducive to staff finding meaning in their positions is one of the best things for a happy, productive, and motivated team.
There are a few ways to foster meaning or rediscover what first energized you when starting at a new workplace. For example, reflecting on your values, offering help when someone is struggling, and recognizing your improvement, even if it’s just from a few weeks to months, helps to visualize your progress and growth.
Another excellent option for identifying and cultivating meaning at work is a process called job crafting. As the name suggests, it’s the process of adjusting your job description to be more personally meaningful. It has three elements as follows:
- Task Crafting
- This is the process of picking up or dropping particular tasks to adjust your day-to-day role requirements to fit a schedule that can encourage more meaning.
- Relational Crafting
- Purposely deepening or creating long-lasting, positive relationships at work or changing you spend time with. You can also promote positivity at work by starting upbeat conversations with your coworkers, managers, and even customers. This can help you employ a more constructive mindset towards your work.
- Cognitive Crafting
- Cognitive crafting entails changing how you think about and perceive your job, understanding what you do and why it’s important. Think about what kind of projects and subjects your company cares for and stands by. Understanding more about what kinds of good your work does may help give new meaning or direction to your efforts.
Making the switch to a more meaningful career
If your current job lacks meaning, it may be time to talk to your boss or assess if a career change would be better for you in the long run.
When looking for a new career, it’s essential to assess your values and what brings you meaning before even starting the job search. Once you understand your non-negotiables, it will be easier to see which careers or positions would be the best fit for you. For example, this could be developing products that make a difference in your community or making diversity an essential element in hiring practices. Once you understand what you are genuinely passionate about, it will be easier to assess which career paths would give you the most meaning.
Then, as you look for appropriate job openings and employers, ensure their values and mission align with yours and allow you to make a positive impact on the world.