Find Meaning in Your Work

“I’m not happy with my job.”

At some point in our lives, we all have heard or have said this sentence. But why? Is it because achieving “happiness at work” is our end-all, be-all destination? On the other hand, is it something a little different, a little deeper?

Happiness is a positive side effect from having a great job, but what truly brings lasting fulfillment, commitment and motivation is finding meaning in our work.

What’s the Difference?

A 2014 Stanford University study examined the differences between happiness and meaningfulness. Jennifer Aaker, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, helps put in perspective the differences between the two: Happiness is obtaining things you desire, while meaningfulness is a deeper expression of how you perceive yourself. A meaningful life is a deeper sense of self-value that directly relates to one’s purpose in life and community.

Rather than perks and benefits packages, putting workplace fulfillment into these terms can help employees focus their efforts on what will cause an effect that will last longer than the free lunch.

Employee Engagement 2.0 author Kevin Kruse sums up the idea perfectly in noting that one can be disengaged at work, yet still be happy with his or her job. Employees can be afraid of change and unwilling to step outside of their comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a productive, hard worker.

How to Bring Meaning to Your Work

An estimated 40 percent of millennials enjoy their jobs. Bringing meaning to your work is as easy as shifting your focus onto three important statements:

  1. “What I do is important.”

Look for the “why” in your work. When assigned a task, focus on how it affects the company’s bottom line, and then move forward with purpose. Even if the only people who ever see your work are internal, remember how your quality output impacts their lives.

  1. “I am part of a team.”

Officevibe found that 70 percent of employees say friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. Being part of a team and feeling connected to fellow employees creates a buy-in that is hard to fake. Knowing one’s output and production will have an effect on a close colleague, or even a friend can have an effect on motivation.

So, form teams, champion teamwork and encourage communication. Don’t overlook the benefit of social outings and networking events. Encourage interoffice communication, even if it’s not 100 percent work-related.

  1. “I contribute to the bigger picture.”

Companies create mission statements to help focus business decisions at every stage of the organization’s life. Bringing light to your big-picture value, even in a low-level job, can help reveal meaning.

Do it by creating your own career mission statement. When you focus your energy and time the way we all have to at work, it’s worth taking a step back to discover the values you want to share with the organization. In addition, see how your values align with the company for whom you work.

Bring Meaning to Your Organization

If your company doesn’t already have a philanthropy initiative or volunteer effort, help start one. Internal champions don’t always have to be appointed; you can volunteer! Finding meaning in your work can be as big as starting a food drive or a walk for cancer research, or as small as creating task groups around marketing, accounting or any other specialized skill.

Ready to find meaning in your work? Apply at Paycomcareers.com.