What is the difference between being a plumber and a vascular surgeon? Maybe nothing, depending on how people perceive the meaning of their work.
Deriving a sense of meaning from your work is beneficial to individuals and employers because it not only can increase an employee's happiness at work but that person's level of engagement and results.
Sometimes people pursue a line of work based on a sense of calling or belief that they have been called to fulfill a purpose higher than themselves or beyond their own needs, such as to God or the needs of society. Those who approach work as a calling show greater work satisfaction, more desirable attitudes toward work, greater personal well-being and an enhanced sense of meaning in life, according to research published by Michael Steger and Bryan Dik of Colorado State University.
There are several ways individuals and organizations may enhance meaning in their work. First, you must consider the fit between a person and organization. Research indicates people tend to be more engaged and promote organizations to others if they can connect their skills with the workplace's mission to address the needs of society.
Comprehensive self- understanding includes being aware of your own characteristics, such as skills, abilities and interests, and how you fit into the workplace.
A career coach or counselor can assist you in developing greater self- awareness through the process of inquiry, exercises and assessments. They also can help you understand how to connect your personal attributes to potential career fields or organizations.
Another method of boosting meaning at work is to practice what's called job crafting. The concept is based on the work of Amy Wrzesniewski, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Yale University's School of Management. Generally, it means making changes to how you see your work or the nature of your work in sometimes small but meaningful ways.
Job crafting can help you maintain your identity at work by adding your own signature to a task or project. You also may stretch your boundaries by doing more of the tasks you enjoy or less of those you don't. Be conscious, though, of your supervisor's view of job crafting because some employers might not support it, or it might be impractical for some types of work.
There are other ways of crafting meaning into your work, such as creating more meaningful social interactions with others at work. Try asking some colleagues to lunch or joining a company-approved activity such as a sports team or volunteer experience. Think of ways you can make small changes in the workplace that make life easier for your co-workers, such as creating a better system of organization. Or you could add positivity to your workplace with praise and appreciation.
Changing the way you see your work or reframing it in a way that gives it a higher purpose can give you a sense of meaning without changing the actual nature or your job.
Remember the example of the plumber versus vascular surgeon? One group of city plumbers began wearing surgical scrubs on the job because they saw a parallel with how vascular surgeons care for the veins and arteries of the body. In their view, they care and maintain water systems, which are the blood of the city. And they realized the significance their work has on the lives of others.
The key to understanding how to develop more meaning in your work is to have a servant attitude and think outside yourself. Finding meaning in work is not reserved only for religious leaders and health care professionals but can apply to many areas.
If you need help in finding a calling or creating a more meaningful and fulfilling work experience, consider contacting a career coach or counselor. You also can find more suggestions and resources in my blog this week at Vision4lifecoaching.com/blog.html.