If we were to be gut-level honest with ourselves, we would all say that we want to do meaningful work that we feel called to do. But how many of us can actually say that we have “meaningful” jobs? Before I go too much further, let me clarify “meaningful” as it relates to work. All jobs are meaningful – we could argue that if there wasn’t some purpose that needed to be met, that job just simply wouldn’t exist. However, not all jobs are, nor should they be, meaningful to you. Let me give you an example.
Several years ago, I had a truly bizarre experience that I want to share with you. I was working with a client “Beatrice,” who held a senior marketing role with a large global hotel chain. Everyday, her job was to think of ways to reach out to existing or potential customers of the hotel around the world and attempt to serve them better. Beatrice hated her job. Beatrice came from a poor country in Latin America where the basics of everyday living are few and far between. From Beatrice’s perspective, all of her hotel customers were “spoiled” and “didn’t know how good they had it.” She wanted out and was looking for avenues that would be more meaningful to her… perhaps contributing more directly to the plight of her home country.
Ann was my next client that day. Ann had a similar dilemma. She was searching for something more meaningful from her current sales role. When Ann began to dream aloud about her perfect job, here is what she told me: “I would love to one day have a senior marketing role with a large hotel chain, working with both our existing customers and potential customers…” Talk about a bizarre coincidence. As I was attempting to pick myself off the floor, Ann continued, “… and here is why. My parents always needed a break. They raised six kids and always seemed to be working. They just needed to get away for the weekend (and from us!) every once and awhile. I would imagine that every customer of the hotel that I was talking to was one of my parents and I was helping to give them the break they truly deserved. It would be tremendously meaningful to me to have a role like that.”
With both Beatrice and Ann, it was exactly the same job with two very different perspectives. The question for you is simple: is there meaning in what you do – from your perspective? Do you connect with some element of your job and feel like you are contributing to the world in a way that is satisfying and meaningful to you? Meaning is a matter of making sense of or framing the world around you. It is not about the job itself, rather how you see it. It is about answering the “why” question when it comes to what you do.
So, why do you do what you do? Do you have a good answer?