Can you find meaning in your job? Some people can’t seem to find meaning in their job or see the difference their job makes. Think about the tasks you perform on a daily basis. Are you bored just thinking about them or do you feel engaged and energetic because you know there is something MORE to your job? Others look beyond the daily tasks and see more in the end product, user, or outcome of their jobs. They see MEANING in their work.
Meaning as it relates to work is:
Your work has purpose beyond the work itself.
According to the book, ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations, Meaning is the first key that builds an engagement that lasts, produces results, and creates joy and happiness in an individual. The other keys finishing the acronym ENGAGEMENT MAGIC® are Autonomy, Growth, Impact, and Connection.
What creates meaning for employees? So many different things create meaning for employees in their jobs that I didn’t want to guess. Instead, I asked the masses and here are 15 real-world examples of how employees find meaning in their work:
Katie Schwartz, Business Speech Improvement
I provide speech coaching to professionals. This may include training in presentation skills, American-English pronunciation for bilingual speakers, those with strong American regional accents, or communication skills needed for leadership. When my clients say they are able to make a successful presentation, get promoted or simply feel more confident about speaking, that gives my work meaning.
One client is a highly skilled professor, but his pronunciation of American-English was so hard to understand that I had no idea what he taught until he drew me a picture. After speech coaching, he reported that his students understood him better. They got better grades and he felt more successful as a professional.
My clients are highly motivated to learn, and that makes working with them very meaningful for me!
Scott Toal, Oeveo
One of the core values of our company is helping others, and we apply this value not only to our customers and coworkers but also to serving those in need outside our company.
In a recent company meeting it was shared that a 17-year old boy in Honduras was treated for hearing loss and through Oeveo’s donation was provided with a hearing aid that allowed him to hear for the first time. The fact that my company gave someone the ability to hear, someone who would have never been afforded the opportunity except through our donation, truly showed what meaning is. See video here.
David Haines, V Stratus
I already thought my cloud-based bookkeeping business was pretty cool when we founded it. However, what has become incredibly meaningful to me, and something about which I am now obsessed is that by helping my clients automate and outsource their accounting needs, it has given them so much freedom that they never thought was even possible.
The buzz you get when a client emails you to ask what you need from them, and you respond and say, “Nothing” is great. Clients are finding more saved time than they ever expected. Some spend it with family, taking up hobbies, or planning an expansion––it’s very exciting to see clients liberate themselves from the shackles of hated tasks!
Abby Jeisenkraft, Real Life Tax Advice
When I first went into private practice as a tax professional, it was a bit scary. You took anything that walked, crawled or hopped into the office. You didn’t say no to any tax work.
I met a client who had a tax problem that spanned 10 years. She came in initially for tax preparation on a current year but told me that she had been through 5-6 tax professionals, about 3-4 IRS agents, etc. No one could help with her problem and it just seemed endless. Just as an IRS agent was working through her case and the client thought it would be over, the IRS agent would be transferred, or would retire, etc. and she had to start all over again. The previous tax practitioners she went to couldn’t help. I asked her if I could take a shot at it. You could tell she didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in settling this. I took the case on. I was able to go back to the initial 10-year old problem, obtain some old microfiche from the IRS, make our case, and get the whole thing closed successfully. An employer had duplicated a W-2 and for 10 years, the IRS tried to say the client had double the income she did.
It was exciting to help someone with an ongoing tax problem that was considered unsolvable, and I got to do some good detective work to sort the whole thing out and to argue the case before the IRS and win.
Tax problems really knock people for a loop, and it’s a burden many people carry with them for years, until it’s settled, so this case had great meaning for me. And many years later, I still have this client.
Lori Bredemeier, Little Toader
I started my company that makes teething toys and pacifiers for babies in 2009 with no experience in the consumer products industry. My background is in Information Technology and Finance, but in 2008 when we had our first baby I knew that I wanted to focus my career on a more meaningful path. I wanted to show my children that life wasn’t about money and that it was about doing what you believe in and finding meaning in that passion. This involved leaving a very comfortable career making 6 figures to move in the direction that I felt God was leading me. It hasn’t been easy, but there isn’t really any career that is.
Through faith and tenacity, Little Toader is a success. Our products are sold around the world and in stores like Walmart, Toys R Us, Destination Maternity, Barnes and Noble and buybuy Baby.
I photograph ridiculously happy people. I specialize in weddings and portraits, and just this past June I photographed a fantastic wedding for the sweetest young couple, Marlee and Dan. For each wedding shoot, I make a list of family photos I am to take, and Marlee and Dan’s included a photo with Marlee’s grandmother. She wasn’t super mobile, so Marlee and I came to her at her seat and I snapped a few photos of them talking with one another. I included one in their sneak peek video the next week.
Not long after the wedding, I received a message from Marlee asking if they could please have a copy of the photo as Marlee’s grandmother had recently passed away, and this was the most recent photo of her. The family wanted to use it at her funeral.
This was so significant. We photographers prattle on about the importance of preserving family memories, but we rarely experience these things so shortly after an event like a wedding. In this sad time for Marlee and her family, I was able to bring them smiles and relieve a little bit of stress. I could actually see how my work can brighten my clients’ lives. It’s not just about decorating my clients’ walls, but actually helping them heal and remember the good times fondly!
Danielle Kunkle, Boomer Benefits
Twice a year, my Medicare-related insurance company offers a $1000 scholarship for students age 50+ who are returning to school to get a degree. Our clients are baby boomers, so we designed the scholarship to give something back. Several of our employees are on the scholarship committee, which spends several weeks every Spring and Fall reviewing hundreds of applications to find a winner. While grades are important, we weight the scholarship heavily toward students who have a history of community service, especially if it’s to the elderly.
My brother and I own this business and we both went to college on scholarships. It’s awesome to be able to pay it forward to other worthy students. It’s been a meaningful way that we can give back to the community from which we earn our living and also foster and encourage community service that helps and supports older people.
Jake Tully, Writer for Truck Driving Jobs
As the content writer for TruckDrivingJobs.com I find myself frequently engaged in crafting content for our online presence that is informative to truck drivers who visit our site and read content that may educate those who new to or considering a career in the commercial trucking industry.
I recently wrote a piece for our site entitled, The Problem With Using A Lot Lizard – How to End Human Trafficking. The unfortunate truth is that human trafficking is still a problem in the United States and our audience (truckers) may see instances of this all too commonly. I wrote the piece to serve as an update to the issue as well as to give drivers resources in which to aid the problem if they wished to help.
The piece received a great deal of attention within our inner circle of readers as well as networks adjacent to us including driver advocacy groups, human trafficking organizations, and individual truckers who took note and shared the piece. In the time that followed publishing the piece, I had several drivers email me and thank our site for the information found within the article and several others asking if they had permission to share the piece. It made me feel great to know that something I helped contribute had the ability to cause such a visceral reaction within the trucking community.
Amanda Ponzar, Community Health Charities
On Father’s Day our CEO, Tom Bognanno wrote a Huffington Post article called, Skip the Tie and Help Save Dad’s Life This Father’s Day to raise awareness for men’s prostate cancer. Tom wrote about his personal battle with prostate cancer and encouraged men to get tested and for families to skip the tie and save dad’s life on Father’s Day. My husband and our CFO, Molly’s husband read Tom’s piece and immediately contacted their doctors. ZERO: The End of Prostate Cancer named Tom their Zero Hero of the month––and we spread the word through our website, social media, email newsletter, and more.
Every day we come to work knowing we are building stronger, healthier communities, and helping everyone live healthier lives. Very rewarding!
Chris Gronkowski, Everything Decorated
Customers always leave us reviews telling us how special their personalized gift was and how much the recipient loved it. This always makes you feel good about your work but one customer’s comment really touched me.
A woman purchased a personalized whiskey decanter as a wedding gift for their father. It was engraved with a special note saying, “Out of all the walks, this one is my favorite.” She explained that this gift gave her the opportunity to express how much she truly loved her dad. She later told us that when she gave the gift to her dad, they had not spoken in years and that her father started to cry when he opened the personalized gift. They now talk all the time and have become very close. She wanted to thank us for helping make it happen.
Customer experiences like this give me meaning in the work we do and gifts that we send. Finding meaning in my work motivates me to continue to produce memorable gifts for our customers.
Mary Grace Donaldson, NotAnotherMillennial.com
I worked for a year at an organization benefitting career-oriented women. We provided networking events, professional memberships, opportunities to be featured in online newsletters, press releases, and more. But, what I loved best about the organization was not so much the products and professional memberships; rather, the fact that the organization was so rooted in feminism. I was surrounded by employees who believed in equal rights, equal pay, and equal treatment — and I was proud to share my own views with my colleagues. I felt that we all worked together to help professional women earn the respect that they deserve.
Stan Kimer, Total Engagement Consulting
After a diverse and successful 31-year career at IBM, I retired and formed my own diversity and career development consultancy in 2010.
For 4 years I was IBM’s global corporate LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity Manager. It was so exciting to help create an equal playing field and having a positive community impact on an often maligned and oppressed minority. Addressing discrimination and lack of understanding on one side and providing hope and inspiration that things are getting better on the other side gave me great satisfaction in work that impacted lives.
Pooja Krishna, Maroon Oak
As a mom, I know hundreds of others whose career choices are impacted by family reasons and life events. Many have struggled to make an impact or find the right resources. So my longtime friend and I were motivated to co-found Maroon Oak, a free career platform to connect women locally and virtually.
Build the career you love!
As entrepreneurs and moms, our life is very demanding––running a lean startup needs both a huge time commitment as well as sizable resources. Lots of learning, many pressures, late nights and crazy days. And most of all, you need tons of motivation and support to keep going!
Every career connection we help make on our platform forges an ever-growing link!
That’s why we do it––it’s exciting and fulfilling for us to see the numerous women members who have connected successfully though us.
Lisa Banks, Enjuris
I am the editor and marketing manager for Enjuris.com, a website that provides resources to people after life-altering accidents. Over 10 years ago, my sister nearly lost her life in a motorcycle accident. Knowing how impactful that accident remains for her and our family, I wanted to create a way to let her, and others like her, share their stories. It can be therapeutic for survivors to share their experience with others. Knowing that I can be the catalyst for that brings meaning to my work.
Jennifer McDermott, Consumer Advocate at Finder
Seeing people break through financial roadblocks, save more money and secure better futures is incredibly rewarding, however, there is one project I worked on recently which held particular significance for me.
The international money transfer industry is big business in America, with more than 84.3 million people in America sending $140.7 billion to people in other countries last year. Research shows the number one reason people send money overseas is to support friends and family, a significant portion of remittances are necessary transactions for those who rely heavily on them, a fact some institutions appear to exploit through inflated fees and rates.
To help bring some transparency to the industry, and more competitive choice to those making and receiving international money transfers, Finder embarked on a three-month research project into the industry and best practice.
The research findings lifted the lid on the international money transfer industry, such as the fact Americans spend an estimated $2.59 billion in fees they don’t know about.
We saw the industry set a new benchmark, with a number of providers amending services to lift their standard, providing more competitive choice to consumers. Knowing that people are getting a better deal on their international money transfers, with friends and family receiving more on the other end has given real meaning to the work we do.
Meaning, an Essential Key to Lasting Employee Engagement
We’ve seen some examples of how employees find meaning in their work. People can find meaning in seemingly routine and distasteful work. The opposite is also true––employees working in seemingly engaging, challenging, fulfilling jobs can become disengaged if they cannot find meaning in them.
There must be something inherent in the workplace that enables the employee to serve a purpose uniquely important to him or her. It’s up to the organization to till the soil and lay down the nutrients that allow people to create their own meaning out of what may be mundane or exhausting, then stand back and let that meaning find its own form.