It’s hugely powerful to realise that you can influence how meaningful your job is.

If you feel disengaged at work, you’re not alone. 85% of us feel the same way. Whether we like or dislike our jobs, we all crave an improved sense of meaning in the world.

Once you understand your purpose, a new sense of meaning starts to flow. This is true of your work life and your personal life. Here’s how to set that meaning in motion.

Understanding your purpose

Purpose is important because it gives you a clear sense of your overarching goals. It’s difficult to measure progress and celebrate achievements if you don’t understand the bigger picture.

Here are a few prompts to get you started:

  • What are your core values? It might help to think of this as your personal code of conduct. Examples include efficiency, empathy, inclusion, loyalty, positivity and trust.
  • What are your natural skills and talents? Are there any you particularly enjoy putting into practice?
  • What are you passionate about? What gets you excited? What causes do you care deeply about?
  • What inspires and energises you? When you recall the moments in your life that have inspired and energised you, is there a common theme?

The Japanese concept of ikigai offers a slightly different way of thinking about purpose. It’s the idea that you can find your ‘reason for being’ at the intersection of:

  • What you love
  • What you’re good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid for

Understanding your company’s purpose

To form a deeper connection with your workplace, it’s important to understand your company’s purpose. Take time to understand its mission and values. You might not identify with everything you read, but by establishing any shared priorities, you’ll get a clearer sense of where you can add value.

If there’s a significant mismatch between your company’s purpose and your own, it might be worth considering whether your work feels meaningful enough at a micro (day-to-day) level to make up for a macro-level mismatch.

If your values align with those of your organisation yet you still feel something’s missing, don’t despair. This is where job crafting comes in – a technique you can use to craft your role into something more meaningful.

Job crafting – reworking your role to enhance meaning

Job crafting is a technique that workers can use to make meaningful changes to their own roles. It takes three key forms – task, relationship, and cognitive crafting.

Task crafting

Task crafting refers to making changes to the amount or type of work you do. With any job, it’s inevitable that you’ll have some unavoidable responsibilities that you don’t enjoy so much. But there may be opportunities to review your responsibilities and check they’re serving you and your company as well as can be.

Throughout your working life, no matter the role, it’s worth regularly asking yourself these questions:

  • Which tasks energise you most? How can you place greater emphasis on these tasks?
  • Are there any tasks you can delegate (e.g. those that require less mastery)?
  • Are there any new tasks you can take on – tasks that are more aligned with your purpose (e.g. mentoring or working on a community project)?
  • Are you scheduling meaningful work for the best times (e.g. when your energy levels and concentration are at their highest)? Are you doing enough to protect that time from lesser demands?

Relationship crafting

Relationship crafting is about changing the nature or amount of interaction you have with others. This takes on a whole new level of importance when you consider that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Take a look at the people around you – your co-workers, managers and customers – and answer these questions:

  • Are you happy with your work relationships?
  • How do you impact these individuals? How do they impact you?
  • Would it serve you to have more, less or the same amount of interaction with these individuals?
  • How can you work differently with individuals you find difficult?
  • Are there any new relationships you could form?
  • Are social activities important to you? If so, how can you create more of them?

Cognitive crafting

Cognitive crafting means altering your attitude, perception and thoughts about your work tasks and relationships. It’s about reframing what you do that so that you have a clearer sense of the bigger picture and your place in it. You might find that these questions alone are enough to change your perception about the meaningfulness of your work:

  • What does your role entail?
  • How does your role serve your:
    • customers?
    • co-workers?
    • organisation?
  • How does your organisation serve its:
    • customers?
    • co-workers?
    • community?
    • the planet?

Your work may be full of subtle pleasures that you might not previously have thought of. We derive pleasure from ordering, understanding, money-making, serving and collaborating. Recognising these qualities in your work can help improve your perception of it.

Ready to move into your next role? Next time, we’ll be looking at big-picture advice for crafting a meaningful career.

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