Most People Want Meaningful Work — Here's How to Find It

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 18, 2024 at 10:42AM UTC

Just over half of working Americans say their job makes a meaningful impact on the world, according to a YouGov poll. And yet a Gallup poll of college-educated Americans finds that more than 80% of respondents want meaningful work.

Having meaningful work doesn’t just make you feel good — it also has tangible benefits. Research shows that performance improves by 33%, and workers are 75% more committed to their employers. In other words, it has positive implications for employees and employers alike.

And when it comes down to it, you can find real meaning in your work — this goal is not so out of reach.

1. Define what meaningful work is for you.

The definition of meaningful work can vary significantly from individual to individual. According to a Brookings report, the self-determination theory says that this type of work fulfills three needs: competence, autonomy and relatedness.

But what is that for you? Perhaps you want to make a tangible contribution to society. Or, you prioritize recognition for your work. Maybe you want a role that allows you to grow personally. Whatever it is, it’s important for you to understand what you’re really seeking in meaningful work.

2. Embrace your strengths.

You don’t have to be a cancer researcher or a literacy specialist to find true meaning and value in your work. Look for ways to apply your strength and skillsets to your work. Consider your hobbies and interests. How might you apply them to a work setting? Search for that intersection of passion and work. If you like your work and it makes you happy, then you will be better equipped to derive meaning from it.

Additionally, reflect on the work you do now and think about how it helps people. Perhaps there is value in it that you’ve never truly considered before.

3. Connect with like-minded people.

When you’re working with people who share your interests and perspectives, you’re more likely to find connections and meaning through and in your work. So, make a concerted effort to find those like-minded people. 

Reach out to professionals you admire on LinkedIn and connect, either virtually or in person. Seek out groups and events geared toward people with your shared passions. They don’t even have to be related to your industry or work in general — think outside the box. You might, for example, attend Meetup events. This can help you build up your network and tap into your true interests.

When you derive meaning from your work, you naturally feel more content and fulfilled. You will also be more incentivized to commit to your organization and your role, thus making you a more valuable professional. It’s a win-win!

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

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