Frustrated With Meaningless Work? Here Is How You Can Fix It

I hate my job!

Many came to this dismal conclusion over the past crisis-filled months.

A recent article in Time stated that the pandemic “unmasked a deep unhappiness with the workplace.” More than a few suggest their antipathy comes from jobs they consider to be meaningless.

Everyone wants a purposeful life. And many look to careers to satisfy this desire. Unfortunately, more than a few come up empty-handed from the struggle to find meaning through work.

If you suffer from this disappointment, perhaps the problem is in how you think about purpose and meaning.

Are you looking for opportunities to make grand gestures to change the world? Do you assume only those in high-level positions, such as CEOs, can address societal challenges successfully?

Indeed, jobs enabling the holder to engage in impressive and visible feats for good do exist. Moreover, sometimes, with great fanfare, corporate leaders do affect change to improve societal welfare.

But these attention-grabbing deeds alone, while notable and praiseworthy, will not change the fate of humankind. The welfare of society is up to each of us.

You do not have to be a CEO nor hold a high-powered job to make a difference in the world.

Grand gestures are fine, but persistent and unrelenting acts for good will make the greatest impact on our world in the long-run.

Lasting and substantial change depends on the choices all of us make and the acts we carry out every day.

Here are some simple yet meaningful choices you can make now.

Seek a Job with Socially Responsible Companies

No one knows exactly why, but the struggle to attract and retain talent is intense currently, and organizations are competing fiercely for employees. As a result, you have more leverage than ever with employers.

The job choices you make now can have an impact on which companies thrive.

Reward Purpose-driven Companies by Working for Them

One way you can use your power for good is by seeking employment in ethical, purpose-driven companies.

By working for a business publicly committed to providing value to the world, you reward, encourage, and support them for taking a stand.

Do Your Homework

As you look for a job, dig for more than the job description tells you. Seek evidence of how the employer you are considering demonstrates the values they proclaim.

Don’t rely merely on company websites or what the recruiters tell you.

Pursue corroboration from news stories, current employees’ comments, and company ratings on ESG indices. Look for connections to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These days, information about companies is readily accessible, enabling you to do your homework with ease.

Connect Your Work to the Company’s Purpose

Your pick of an employer is significant beyond merely rewarding the purpose-driven businesses.

If you choose to work for a socially responsible business, your job is likely to align clearly with the purpose. Leaders in these companies usually understand the importance of everyone’s efforts to keeping the company’s commitments. And they articulate how each person’s job contributes to the desired outcomes.

Ensure your job will be meaningful by discussing with your prospective employer how you can connect to the company’s purpose directly.

In addition, explore opportunities to do more through other avenues within the organization.

Most purpose-driven companies have special projects, charitable giving drives, pro bono volunteer activities, and internal action groups to address organizational and societal challenges. Sign up!

Use Your Power in Your Current Organization

For those of you employed presently and not ready to jump, the tight talent pool increases your sway within your current employer.

The pandemic affected almost all companies in one way or another. Now, more than ever, many leaders eagerly seek to understand and address their employees’ expectations and desires. They realize the significance of employee engagement to company resilience and success.

You are a vital stakeholder. You have a voice. Use it!

Voice Your Values and Ask Questions

Wise leaders understand that engagement is more likely when company and employee values align. So, speak up about what you care about and stand for.

Ask questions about values. Find out how the company standards show up in decisions and behaviors.

Seek out the avenues to learn more about the organization and to make suggestions for improvements. Most companies offer ways for employees to provide input. Take advantage of the opportunities available.

Identify Where You Have Influence and Use It

Leadership is all about influence. Whether you are a CEO, manager, team leader, or informal trailblazer without a formal title of authority, you still have the power to influence some, if not all, others in your organization.

A formal title is not a prerequisite for power. You can impact your team and your colleagues through your expertise, character, and relationships.

Engage in discussions with your teammates about where you can make a positive difference.

Determine how to collaborate and provide more value to those who count on you both within and outside the company boundaries.

Establish lines of communication upwards to make rational arguments to the decision-makers about opportunities for social and business impact. Make a case for how providing value to society and making a profit connect.

Choose How You Contribute to the Organizational Culture

Research shows that a specific kind of organizational culture is critical to a company’s ability to impact the world positively. And everyone, including you, contributes to the culture either deliberately or unintentionally.

Your behavior every day has an impact on the organization, even if you are not always immediately aware of it.

For example, when you seek out and listen to diverse opinions, you affect the culture. As you keep your commitments and show respect for your coworkers, you are making a difference.

Simple acts can have an critical impact.

The best cultures for supporting company purpose build on trust, engagement, collaboration, and learning. Make your contributions to the culture intentionally.

You neither have to engage in grand gestures nor become a CEO to make a difference in the world through your work.

The pursuit of meaningful work doesn’t rest with a high-power, flashy job. Your choices and behaviors determine the meaning of your work.

Our everyday actions may seem insignificant compared with the flashy deeds of some. Yet, our daily decisions and actions, rather than infrequent grand gestures, make the greatest difference to the world in the long run.

Instead of pondering why you can’t find meaningful work, re-frame the question. Ask yourself what can you do to make your work meaningful now.


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