31 Aug The Leader’s Voice: Insights from PRIDE’s Leadership – Meaning
What Are We Here For?
For most of us, there was not a time when we decided whether or not we were going to have a job when we became adults. It was assumed…we must work to put food on our tables and a roof over our heads. We attended school, maybe tried out a job (or two, or four) and found our way to Pride. We may or may not have thought carefully about the meaning we would find in our work as we made our way along our career path.
Research shows, however, that meaning is a critical component of not just career, but life happiness. Researchers might refer to this concept as meaning, or purpose, or just “doing good”. Theologians sometimes call it “ultimacy” – that which connects you to something higher than yourself. Whatever you call it, it’s important. Consider the following:
- A recent survey by Clark University found 86% of 18-to-29 year olds want a career that does good in the world.
- Research by the Energy Project found that 59% of all respondents reported they feel depleted, distracted, and are lacking in purpose in their work.
- An analysis of workplace surveys found that workers who report that their work is meaningful are 3 times more likely to stay with their current employer.
Therefore, how do we go about finding meaningful work?
Pop culture often tells us to “follow our passion” in choosing a career path. Personally, I have always found that advice to be shallow and unhelpful. I’m not alone. A Google search that starts with “follow your passion” has led me to auto-suggestions ending the sentence in the words “wrong,” “bad advice,” and “the worst advice,” among others. The reason is that makes it sound too easy – finding meaningful work is hard, and takes time and dedication and the understanding that not every day will be bliss, no matter what you do. And who knows if you would retain your passion if you had to do it every day?
There are, however, some fundamental ways to build meaning into your work. Luckily, they are available to all of us, in every kind of job and at every stage in our career. They can be summarized into three practices:
- Be a giver, not a taker. While we might assume successful professionals got ahead by taking advantage of every person in their path, research done by the Wharton School found that members of top management were consistently rated as “givers” rather than “takers” or even “matchers” (people who balanced giving and taking). By giving to others who can use our knowledge, support, or assistance, we not only help our organization but we create a sense of satisfaction and meaning for ourselves.
- Focus on the big picture. Immersed in the day-to-day tasks of our jobs, it can be easy to lose sight of why our job exists – the impact it has on others. You don’t have to be a heart surgeon to be part of a team that is changing people’s lives, or making them better in some way. Even if our task seems far removed from the end result, each team member is critical in achieving a goal – whether it’s getting someone a better job, or making sure they get paid on time, or helping a client achieve its cost savings goals so that their employees can focus on their core mission…all make an impact in our world.
- Nurture relationships. We all have a deep need for connection with other people. Many studies show that turnover is heavily impacted by the quality of a person’s relationships with his or her coworkers. A workplace is a community. A company culture that fosters genuine trust and friendship, whether or not that is carried outside of the workplace, leads to a sense of belonging and therefore greater meaning in a person’s work.
If we keep the three practices in mind, incorporate them into our goals and make them a habit, we will not only be better at our jobs but we will find them richer and more satisfying as well.
About the Author:
Kate Goss is the Managing Director of the PrideOne division. She joined Pride in 2010 as the Program Manager of the Morgan Stanley MSP program, and advanced to managing Pride’s Managed Services offerings in 2013. She has a strong interest in helping employees continuously learn and grow inside and outside of the office, as well as creating an environment where employees feel their life is balanced and meaningful.
Prior to joining Pride, Kate spent 17 years in the staffing industry, beginning as a recruiter and moving into progressively more responsible roles, from Account Manager, to Engagement Manager, to Director of Operations. She received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and received a Master’s in Human Resources Management from the Milano Graduate School at the New School in New York City. She lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband and three children.