Do you ever wish that you had a more meaningful career?
Maybe your career used to be rewarding, but you feel like you are just going through the motions lately. Or, maybe your career has never been that rewarding.
The average person spends 30-50% of their waking hours at work. It is virtually impossible to attack each day with energy and enthusiasm if your work feels unfulfilling. The opposite is also true. When your work is fulfilling, you will bring more energy to your career and to every other area of your life.
You don’t need to blow up your career to experience more satisfaction at work. In this article, you will learn four secrets for a more meaningful career (without changing jobs).
1. Change how you think about your work.
Any type of work can feel meaningful or meaningless. Your perspective is key.
If you do not find your career to be fulfilling, your mindset (rather than the work itself) could actually be the problem. You don’t need to work for a non-profit or serve disadvantaged people in order to feel like your work matters.
Two people can have the same job, yet view their work very differently. One person might think a job is important and satisfying. Another person might think the same job is trivial and unsatisfying.
For example, one study analyzed how a group of zookeepers felt about their work. 1 The researchers found that some of the zookeepers believed their jobs were merely to clean dirty cages and feed animals. Not surprisingly, these people viewed their jobs as meaningless.
However, the researchers found that other zookeepers believed that their jobs were to protect and care for animals. As you might expect, these people found their jobs to be very meaningful.
Same job, yet very different feelings. The only difference was perspective.
As another example, I once met a man who investigates and prosecutes individuals and companies that have committed fraud. He told me that he considers his career to be “God’s work.”
I would never have thought that investigating and prosecuting criminals was “God’s work.” However, this man believes that his profession is very important. That is a big reason why he is incredibly satisfied (and successful) with his career.
If you don’t find your work to be meaningful, think about how you define what you do for a living. Could you think about your profession in a more uplifting way? Sometimes, simply shifting your perspective can make the same job much more rewarding.
2. Seek out mentoring opportunities at work.
There have probably been some individuals who helped you get where you are today. What about passing on your experience to people who are earlier in their career?
Over the years, I’ve sought out a variety of opportunities to mentor people at work. This has usually been outside of my job description, and it’s never been part of a formal mentoring program either. It’s something that I have done on my own to make a bigger impact and to derive more satisfaction from my career.
Serving as a mentor at work makes a rewarding job even better. Or, it makes an unfulfilling job more meaningful. I speak from experience with both scenarios. I have sought out informal mentoring opportunities while working in jobs that I loved and also while working in jobs that were not as enjoyable.
In every organization, there are younger employees who would benefit from your wisdom and experience. Always be on the lookout for promising people who are eager to learn and grow. Take them to lunch or coffee to discuss their challenges and aspirations. Let them observe you as you do your job as well.
Mentoring is extremely rewarding. It will also help you learn and grow. Your mentees will teach you some things as well. They will provide a fresh perspective and help you identify some ways to get even better too.
3. Share your non-work knowledge with co-workers.
Chances are that you have some experience, skills, and expertise outside of work that would benefit others. What about sharing this knowledge with your colleagues?
In my free time, I’m a certified fitness trainer and nutrition coach. Over the years, I’ve shared this expertise with many co-workers. To be clear, I did this while working in jobs that had nothing to do with health and fitness.
For example, while working as an executive recruiter, I hosted several webinars for co-workers on how to have your “healthiest, strongest year ever.” I also organized an office team to do an obstacle course race together and provided training tips to all team members.
Maybe you are knowledgeable about personal finance, or maybe you have a relevant technical skill, or maybe you are a certified yoga instructor, or maybe you have something else to offer. Contact your company’s HR department and propose an idea on how to share your non-work knowledge with your colleagues.
By sharing your expertise, you will experience many benefits. First of all, you will add value to your colleagues, which will be personally rewarding and energizing. Secondly, you will strengthen your personal brand and network within your company.
4. Donate some of your income to worthy causes.
If you want to have a more meaningful career, your career cannot just be about you. It must serve a bigger purpose and somehow add value to the world.
In addition to the ideas above, donating some of your income is another way to create a more meaningful career. This is even more important if your job is not fulfilling to you.
Some people hoard their money for themselves. A stronger approach is to set aside a certain amount of your income to support causes that matter to you. When you do this, your job will take on a larger purpose. It will not just be about paying bills and providing for yourself.
How much should you donate? Well, the actual amount is not as important as the act itself. Choose whatever amount feels meaningful to you.
Bonus tip: Don’t set up your charitable donations for auto-pay. Instead, set reminders for yourself to make recurring or frequent donations. That way, you will feel and enjoy your contributions more than if they occur automatically and behind-the-scenes.
Summary and Final Thoughts
You spend a huge chunk of each week at work. The more meaningful your career, the more energy you will bring to work and to every other area of your life.
You don’t need to blow up your career to experience more personal and professional satisfaction. Any type of work can feel meaningful or meaningless. Your perspective and approach play a large role.
If you want to have a more meaningful career (without changing jobs), ask yourself the following questions:
- How could you think about your work in a more uplifting way?
- Who could you mentor at work?
- What non-work knowledge do you possess, and how could you share this knowledge with your co-workers?
- Which causes are important to you, and how could you donate to these causes?
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About the author: Pete Leibman is a consultant, speaker, and author who helps leaders and companies thrive. He is the creator of StrongerHabits.com and he’s the bestselling author of Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work. Before writing Work Stronger, Pete worked as an executive recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles, a leadership advisory firm who serves the majority of the Fortune 500. In his free time, he teaches one of the largest group exercise classes in the Washington, D.C. area. He has also competed in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championships.
References for this article:
- Stuart Bunderson and Jeffrey A. Thompson, “The Call of the Wild: Zookeepers, Callings, and the Dual Edges of Deeply Meaningful Work,” Administrative Science Quarterly 54 (2009): 32-57.