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5 Tips to Finding Your Meaningful Career

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Are you someone who “works to live” and has no passion for that work? Do you get out of bed dreading the day, or excited to get it started? The desire to be satisfied with the work we do, to make the saying “live to work” a positive one, is becoming greater and greater. According to a recent article in Fast Company1, “More than 50 percent of millennials say they would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values, while 90 percent want to use their skills for good."

Instead of focusing on the best benefits package or the highest salary, more employees today look for the emotional reward of fulfilling work. The good news is that you don't have to give up a good paycheck to do meaningful work—aligning your values, even your hobbies, with your career can bring both emotional and financial satisfaction. While some people opt to work at a nonprofit organization that serves the community or to provide direct, one-on-one support services such as becoming a nurse, you can also find broader ways to cultivate meaning in your career.

Try these five approaches to finding a match between your talents, your interests and your career:

  • 1

    Decide for yourself what “meaningful" means. If you're considering a career change or trying to identify your initial career path, it's important to think about the values and interests that ignite passion for you. Take the time to consider what makes you happy both at and away from work. Our hobbies and “fun skills” in many cases, can be turned into a career: but first we need to know what would make us happy day in and day out for years to come. 

  • 2

    Think about your work style. Are you more of a social worker who wants to have a hands-on impact on others? Or do you like the idea of work that has a subtle impact either on yourself or your community. Meaningful work does not necessarily mean entering in a “service” industry. In fact, according to a General Social Survey by the National Organization for Research, only 4 of “The 10 Happiest Jobs” were in the traditional “caring professions”. The other 6 ranged from author to operating engineers.2

  • 3

    Consider how to align your passions, values and talents in a career. An article in Conscious Lifestyle magazine recommends the “PVT" (passion, values, talents) exercise: Draw a triangle and write down your passions, values and talents at each point. In the center of the triangle, make a list of potential jobs or fields that could integrate all three.3

  • 4

    Create Your own Career. Bestselling author and noted motivational speaker Malcolm Gladwell has observed that all great jobs have 3 qualities: 1) Complexity, 2) Autonomy and 3) A clear relationship between effort and reward. In his view, being engaged in challenging work, taking ownership over the outcome, and having the ability to reap the rewards of success can create meaning, which brings an outcome of personal commitment.4 If this concept is appealing, entrepreneurship might be a path to consider.  

  • 5

    Make a solid plan before pulling the trigger. Once you have figured out where you want your career to lead, make a well-thought-out plan on how to accomplish the switch. Utilize sites such as LinkedIn to network and make contacts who may be able to help you in your job search or provide advice. Be sure you are financially secure by having a robust savings account and minimal debt before handing in your resignation. Following your passion to a fulfilling career is a wonderful feeling; however, it is a change that must be undertaken thoughtfully and with purpose.

If you're looking for job satisfaction outside of your paycheck, open your mind to your options for finding a career that can provide you with a sense of purpose and is aligned with your values as well as skills and talents. 

1Fast Company, "What Millennial Employees Really Want," June 2015

2Forbes, "The Ten Happiest Jobs," Sept. 2011

3Conscious Lifestyle Mag, "The Eight Keys to Finding Meaningful Work,"

4Jenna Goudreau, “Malcolm Gladwell says All Great Jobs Have These 3 Qualities,” Business Insider, Nov. 10, 2014 

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