Illustration: Ashley Siebels
A lot has been written lately about how everyone is looking for more purpose in their careers. They want greater meaning from their work. If that’s you, let me save you some grief.
Stop the insanity. You’re chasing air
Let me explain…
Most people reading this live in the 1%. If you make more than $12,000 a year, that puts you in the 1% of the world’s wealthiest population. As a result, your needs from a job have shifted from “food, water, shelter” to also now include a sense of satisfaction. You want your work to make you feel good. I get it. I do, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s part of our evolution up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. However, this is where things went wrong.
You made the unknowing mistake of following what “they” told you to do.
As people evolve in their thinking about what a “good job” is, they often blindly follow the lead of all those before them and assume they should start to seek more for themselves. You chase bigger, better jobs that pay more and have more responsibility. You strive to be able to answer the question, “What do you do?” in a way that impresses other people.
You make career moves in an effort to gain respect. It makes you feel good for awhile, but eventually, you realize something is still missing. The satisfaction you seek continues to elude you. That’s when you decide it’s your job’s fault. You want to have more “purpose” and meaning from your work. You want to make a bigger impact.
In fact, it shouldn’t surprise us that millennials, the youngest generation in the workforce, are the ones demanding purposeful work the most. They’ve been raised on the mantra, “you can be anything you want to be—don’t settle,” and all the pressure to find fulfillment that comes with it.
Here’s the hard truth…
Wanting “purpose” is just an excuse for not knowing (and appreciating!) how you create value.
If you want to feel more satisfied in your career, you need to step back and ask yourself these questions:
- What problems do I love to solve?
- What pain do I like to alleviate for others?
- How do I create value?
If you can’t answer them, then I would make it a point to find the answers. I promise, the satisfaction will follow. And, if you think you don’t have any value to offer, you’re wrong.
Everyone has a way to create value
Today, in your current job, you’re surrounded by customers, coworkers, managers, and the world at large. Think about how much value you could create today by solving the problems of your customers and making work better for your coworkers and managers. When you deeply understand and appreciate the value you provide on a daily basis, you can answer the question, “What do you do?” with passion and enthusiasm. It’s infectious. It also opens doors. But most important, it provides you with the satisfaction you are seeking.
This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn.
J.T. O’Donnell is the founder and CEO of WorkItDaily.com.