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How To Have A Meaningful Career

01/06/2015 08:23AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier

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By Laura Simms

In 2012, Kelly Services released a report after surveying 170,000 people from 30 countries and across all generations. Here’s what they found:

• Over 52% of the respondents said that their work didn’t provide a sense of meaning

• 44% didn’t feel valued by their employer

• 66% intended to look for a new job within the next year

Those numbers reveal epidemic levels of job dissatisfaction. If you’re unhappy with your work situation, maybe you can relate. 

Wondering about the people who reported that they did enjoy their job? They were still looking for more of something, and it was something the discontented workers wanted, too. 

Can you guess what that elusive thing was? According to Kelly Services, the workers wanted to find meaning.


Patterns To Choosing A Career

The Kelly report remains relevant today as people continue to search for more meaningful work. The problem? Most folks don’t actually know what they’re looking for or how to find it. There are two main schools of thought when it comes to choosing a career: I call them then Boomer Blueprint and the Bliss Backlash. They will probably sound familiar to you. 


Understanding The Boomer Blueprint

The Boomer Blueprint is the tried and once true model of the Baby Boomer generation that goes like this: choose stable profession, attend college, pick a practical major, get a job in your chosen profession, advance through the ranks, stay in the same field, and often with the same company, ‘til retirement do you part. 

The Boomer Blueprint is fairly rigid, but it’s also fairly safe. There is a clear path from A to JOB, and though you’re not guaranteed a job at the end of your education, that’s the idea. Jump through expected hoop, get expected career. 

For most people, careers simply do not look like this anymore. The education system, job market, and financial landscape have made significant shifts since the Boomers were coming up, and their blueprint is no longer a realistic guide for most people. This leads us to the Bliss Backlash. 


The Bliss Backlash

No longer content with the Boomer Blueprint, many Gen-Xers (sometimes encouraged by their Boomer parents) took a different approach to careers, and the “Follow Your Bliss” generation was born. The mantras were “Do what you love and the money will follow” and “Follow your dreams.”  And oh boy, did they follow. They followed into art, theatre, and music. They followed into English literature, creative writing, and art appreciation. They followed their little liberal arts-loving hearts out.

Maybe you can see where this is going; this model has its problems as well. The Bliss Backlash engendered wannabe careers that were heavily slanted towards self-expression, which begs the question: How do you monetize self-expression? I know many people who have managed to do just that, but their work always moves beyond self-expression and into something of significant value or service to others, which is not a topic you’ll find on your Ivory Tower syllabus. 


A Formula That Works

So what can you do then? How can you find meaningful work if the Boomer Blueprint isn’t reliable and the “Follow your bliss” stuff isn’t a sure thing either?

I’ve been helping clients solve this riddle for several years, and they can tell you the answer: you start with purpose. 

If you want a meaningful career, you have to start with what’s meaningful. In the Purpose Paradigm, your personal sense of purpose comes first, even before you start listing our your transferable skills, A+ subjects, and whatever else your well-intentioned school counselor told you to do. When you put purpose first, you set yourself up to find a career that fulfills you and benefits others, a winning combination that the Boomer Blueprint and the Bliss Backlash rarely deliver.


Practical Steps To Discovering Your Purpose

Start by simply asking yourself, “What matters most to me?” Do some writing about what you want to stand for in the world and whom you want to help. How do you want to contribute? What do you want your legacy to be? Given your life experience, what causes or people are you in a unique position to champion? The answers to these questions are the foundation of your quest for a meaningful career. Of course you’ll need to temper them with your abilities and strengths, but this is ground zero. This is where things shift for you. This is starting with purpose. 

Now, before you go thinking that my line of questioning above only leads to non-profit, Mother Theresa-type work, let me tip you off that any kind of work can be purpose-driven. Any! It all depends on your personal sense of purpose. Just some of the purpose-driven careers I’ve seen people go into include copywriter, urban planner, teacher and corporate consultant. 

If you are in that 52% whose work doesn’t provide you with a sense of meaning, I challenge you to make 2015 the year you change that. Purpose-driven work is available to anyone who knows how to look for it. You know how to get started. Continue your pursuit, and join those of us already working in the Purpose Paradigm. A meaningful career is waiting for you.


Laura Simms is a career coach who helps purpose-driven people find
careers that feel like home. She’s the creator of the holistic career change program, Your Career Homecoming, and the author of The Purpose Paradigm.  Her work has been featured on US News & World Report, The
Huffington Post, and Psychology Today. Get her free training to align who you are with how you earn at createasfolk.com/freebies. 


Life+Leisure Careers Career Advice Laura Simms

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