Stop Looking for Meaning in Your Job — Start Creating it

If you feel like you have lost any sense of purpose in your work, you are not alone. This is not one of the articles that will encourage you to quit your job and travel the world. But I do have two news, one good and one bad. The bad news is that you will not find meaning in your job. The good news is that you can create it. Here’s how.

If you reached a point where you feel demotivated by your work, it’s probably for a number of reasons. It may be that you started your job with high hopes but are now disappointed by the reality of your day-to-day. Or, you knew very well that your job wasn’t going to bring much pleasure, but still, yearn for meaning. Regardless of your reasons, you can regain a sense of purpose. The first step is to really deconstruct why you feel this emptiness. Then give yourself the means to overcome this feeling. Let’s look at two common scenarios.

Scenario 1: There is a mismatch between your career aspirations and current job

Perhaps your job may not be in the industry, or side of the industry, that you picture yourself in for the future. Maybe you would like to work for a different team inside your organisation or outside your sector. Either way, there are three things that can boost you up again:

#1 Build relevant in-job skills

Find out what skills would be valued in your dream role and look at how your current job helps you learn them. If possible, have a discussion with your manager to assess how you can focus on work that develops the skills most relevant to you.

#2 Create a side activity

If you find that your role can’t help you build the knowledge you need, it’s time to start a side activity. This can be either inside your organisation or completely separate. Examples include participating at events relevant to your interests, volunteering for a project, taking up an additional qualification or creating your own initiative.

#3 Reach out to inspiring people

Reach out to people in the field you’d like to work in to discover their outlook. You can use your network or simply cold message. People tend to reply if someone expresses interest in their work. Asking some well thought out questions can make a lasting impression and open doors in the future.

Look at your current job as a stepping stone to something greater.

Scenario 2: You like what you do but not how it’s done

Perhaps you can’t imagine yourself doing a different job or simply want to keep your current expertise. It may well be that you stopped seeing the bigger picture, started to feel unchallenged or sense that your career progression is stalling. These three steps can come to the rescue:

#1 It’s a matter of perspective: think about whom and what you are serving

Remind yourself of whom and what you serve. People tend to derive more pleasure from work when they have a clear idea of how they benefit others. You don’t have to work for a charity to do that. The cynical among us may disagree but any job serves a wider purpose. You may be bored as a mortgage advisor but your precious advice helps many families build a home. Take a step back and think about the bigger picture. Can you serve better?

#2 Be pro-active in switching up your routine

Take a look at your workflow and think about different ways to change up your routine. Perhaps there are innovative ways to make it more efficient. Maybe you could take ownership to improve some processes. You could even think about expanding your responsibilities in more interesting ways. These tweaks could dramatically change the quality of your job and impress your manager along the way.

#3 Be brave and ask for more

It can be demotivating to feel like your professional growth has staggered. This could be caused by intrinsic reasons, for example, if there is no room left for you to grow in a team. That would be a sign to move on. But it can equally be about building the courage to ask for what you want. It’s not necessarily about getting a promotion. Rather, it’s about how your role can bring new challenges.

So, don’t wait too long to find meaning in your job. It may turn out to be a lonely and unsuccessful pursuit. A better option may be to take action and rekindle your motivation.

I am a coach and trusted advisor to driven and gifted people who feel there’s an inkling of rebellion in them. I help them create more fulfilment and reduce stress in their work and careers, on their terms. Connect with me here:

Coach — Career and Work Transformation | PhD Researcher | Facilitator