How to Find Meaningful Work
The pandemic has caused many workers to perform a top-down reevaluation of their entire lives — including their choice of employment. Millennials in particular are sick of back-to-back virtual meetings and are beginning to abandon the typical white-collar cushy jobs for greener pastures by turning their side hustles into full-time gigs.
Those who plan on staying in their corporate jobs are pushing back on return-to-office directives and threatening to quit unless they are granted their wish to work wherever and whenever they want. This dynamic has been branded the ‘YOLO’ — You Only Live Once — Economy.
An interesting side effect of the pandemic is each of us has been granted more time — lots of it — which many have used to contemplate their very existence and life trajectory. This is a good thing and long overdue — searching for meaning is a journey we must all take sooner or later as we confront our own mortality.
With no commute, extra money from government stimulus checks, and unused vacation funds, many workers are flush with fat bank accounts and feeling emboldened by the soaring stock and housing markets. Combined with time spent contemplating purpose and meaning, it is the perfect storm and employers are beginning to feel the squeeze as employees gain more leverage over their careers.
Everyone is seeking the same thing when it comes to a job — we want our work to matter. Matter in the sense it helps another person or is part of a higher cause we hold dear. When a job provides neither, we become disillusioned and begin seeking other opportunities we hope will fill this need.
A word of caution: it can be difficult to find a job where you feel like the work matters. Sometimes, you have to make the work matter.
Let’s say you have the most boring job in the world — customer service at the Department of Motor Vehicles. DMVs are notorious for terrible — and painfully slow — customer service. What if you were the exception? You greet customers with a handshake, a smile, and compliment them on their outfits. You move quickly to process their applications so they can get back to their busy lives.
Your attitude makes you stand out and pretty soon customers are requesting you because you brighten their day. You rise above the reputation of the DMV — the exception instead of the rule. You treat your work like it matters — and eventually it does — to your customers.
No matter what you do for a living, you interact with others and there is always an opportunity to add value — and a little bit of joy — to their lives. Look for these moments to make a difference — it will give meaning to any type of work.