10 Tips For Defining And Achieving ‘Meaningful Work’ In Your Career

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In 2022, employers are still feeling the effects of the Great Resignation as employees continue to quit their jobs in droves. Research points to burnout and dissatisfaction as two of the main reasons people are leaving their organizations in favor of more “meaningful work.”

If you want to define and achieve meaningful work for yourself, read on for some key insights from the members of Young Entrepreneur Council. Below, 10 of them share how their definitions of “meaningful work” have changed throughout their careers and how other professionals can achieve their own versions of meaning in current or future jobs.

Young Entrepreneur Council members offer advice on finding meaningful work.

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Focus On Serving And Helping Your Team

Before I had a team, meaningful work was about doing the right thing for me. Therefore, I would make decisions based on what I thought was best for my growth and success at the time. My definition of “meaningful work” has changed now that I have a team to support. Now that I have a team, I make decisions with my team’s best interest in mind rather than what’s best for me. Meaningful work now means that I’m focused on serving and helping my team. If my team is happy and has the resources to succeed, I’m happy. – John Hall, Calendar

2. Follow Your Passion

My definition of meaningful work has changed a lot over the course of my career. As a student, I thought that meaningful work was about getting good grades and going on to a prestigious job like a doctor or lawyer. Now, considering my current job, I think that meaningful work is about doing something that you are passionate about and that will make a difference in the world. I think that other professionals can achieve meaningful work in this way by doing something they are passionate about that will make a difference. It varies for every person and differs at every stage. What might be meaningful to me will not necessarily be meaningful to others. – Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz

3. Zero In On Empathy

Meaningful work can happen in almost any industry if you focus on empathy and taking care of people. That’s a change from my early way of thinking, where nonprofit or mission-driven work was “meaningful” while other models were less so. The fact is, someone needs what you offer, so why not offer it in a way that’s focused on problem-solving and building relationships? You and your team will get so much more satisfaction out of your workday if you do so. This shift in viewpoint can help entrepreneurs who feel lost in the middle of what they’re doing to get more satisfaction out of their work. I understand that sometimes workplaces can become combative or negative, but the responsibility to turn the ship in a new direction starts at the top. Your team will pick up on your new culture. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts

4. Look To Add Value

When it comes to meaningful work, one priority for me is creating products that genuinely help improve our customers’ quality of life. While other businesses in our category might focus on finding high-margin products to add to their offering, we’re instead trying to find ways to add more value to our customers’ lives. In the early days, the priority was generating enough cash flow to survive and then scale. While delivering better sleep was also a core aspect of our business, as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to focus more on ways to improve the customer experience post-purchase with products they’ll love for years (or decades) to come. – Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress

5. Find Work That Encourages Growth

What I’ve found throughout my career is that meaningful work is relative to the individual. While some may derive a sense of purpose and value from one type of work, it might make other people feel like they are totally wasting their time and talents. For me, meaningful work comes down to growth as a person. It’s not always possible to do work that saves lives or makes some massive shift in the wellness of the world. Because of this reality, finding work that helps me develop the traits I want to be known for is the key to feeling as though it’s meaningful. If I’m not growing as an individual, then I find it nearly impossible to feel like my work is meaningful. Stagnation is simply not an option, so avoiding this is what makes me feel most like I’m doing meaningful work. – Richard Fong, Assured Standard

6. Determine The Impact Your Work Has On Others

The meaning of “meaningful work” has changed throughout my career. When I first started out, I had a very narrow definition of what it meant to have a meaningful job. I thought that if you were making money, you were doing meaningful work. But as I began to learn about the world, and how people in different countries live and work, my definition of meaningful work changed. What’s more important than making money? What’s more important than being able to provide for your family? It’s not about the “job”; it’s about the impact that your work has on others. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

7. Remember That Small Actions Count

I used to think that meaningful work was about big actions and results. But now, I realize that it’s the small things we do every day that make up the majority of our work. It’s the little things we do to help others, make someone’s day better or make a positive change in the world. These are the things that add up and make a difference. I’ve seen success in my business by adding tiny feature changes or improving customer service in some way. These little things make a big impact over time and are more meaningful than any one big success. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

8. Align Your Work With Your Values

My definition of “meaningful work” has changed considerably since looking at the world through the rose-colored glasses of a recent college grad. Meaningful work doesn’t have to mean saving the world, curing cancer or inventing the next big thing. Professionals can achieve meaningful work if they do something that aligns with their values and does not compromise their integrity. Another important thing to remember is that you don’t have to work for peanuts to do meaningful work. Meaningful work and money are not mutually exclusive. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.

9. Determine What Makes Customers Happy

For me, meaningful work has come to mean how we help people and other businesses succeed. It’s not just about what I’ve achieved; it’s about happy customers who find our product helpful in their lives. Early on in my career, I recognized that my employer didn’t disclose what happened once the product left the office. Did the customer like it? Did they send it back? The information we had was contained to the task assigned. This was very demotivating because it became just a job. But when you are aware of the impact your work has on others, and how it actually makes their lives easier, your work transitions from “just a job” to something meaningful. – Benjamin Rojas, All in One SEO

10. Make Time More Meaningful

Before motherhood, meaningful work for me was working around the clock, making sure that I was productive and busy all the time. Now that I’m a mom and busy as a bee, I consider my time more important than anything. Conversations at work become meaningful. The lessons I learn from other people are already achievements for me. They give me life. Moreover, I realized that meaningful work doesn’t just revolve around the kind of work I have or the number of hours I work, but around the things I gain (lessons, relationships, peace and joy) after every workday. – Daisy Jing, Banish

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