Sense and fun at work: How important purpose really is – and how you find it
Purpose, motivation, mission, intention – there are many possible translations for what is meant by the purpose of the job. Ultimately, they all mean nothing other than that you don’t go to work every day (just) for the money, but see a deeper meaning in it. Work should be fun, it is said again and again in this context, because if you do what you love, you never have to work again. So many empty phrases around the topic are circulating in the world of work. But in reality, things are different, at least sometimes. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at the so-called purpose.
Interesting figures on the meaning of the job
In theory, all of these phrases sound good. It is therefore hardly surprising that the purpose plays an important role in professional life for many people, especially among the younger generations Y and Z. A study by BetterUp came to the result that 90 percent of those surveyed would be willing to work which they find meaningful to accept less salary. Up to 23 percent less income would be fine for them. According to the XING Salary Study 2019, employees would also accept a lower salary for a job with a purpose. A trend that does not go unnoticed by companies. For this reason, more and more employers are developing such a purpose for recruiting and retaining employees and, so to speak, giving the employees the meaning of their work.
How important is the purpose really?
The problem with this is that specifying the purpose only works to a limited extent. It is much more important that everyone finds meaning in their work. The question of whether the purpose is important and what it looks like in your own case can therefore only be answered individually. It would definitely be a burden for many people to do work day after day that they find meaningless – or that, even worse, even violates their own values. This can lead to an inner resistance to the job, which not only results in a lack of motivation but can even promote illnesses such as burnout syndrome. The emphasis is on “can” because it is not a must. There are just as many people who are perfectly fine to work primarily or entirely for the money. The money itself becomes the purpose. So the fact is: the purpose of the job is important. Everyone, consciously or unconsciously, has such a purpose. It drives you to get up in the morning and go to work in the first place. How this looks, however, is highly individual.
The purpose can have many faces
It is often altruistic values that are touted as purposes by employees and employers. Helping other people to protect the climate, to promote technological progress, to make the world a little better – this or something like that can be the way you work. But he doesn’t have to! Likewise, your goals can be to provide for your family, to lead a financially worry-free life, to get professional recognition, or simply to earn as much money as possible. The purpose does not always have to refer to the big picture, but can only apply to you, even if that sounds selfish. You can decide for yourself which determination you see in your work and you do not have to follow any social conventions. The subject of purpose is therefore often misunderstood. The aim should be for you to find out for yourself what motivates you. But how?
This is how you find out what drives you
The fact is: not everyone can pursue a maximally meaningful job. Nowadays many jobs are just a small cog in a clockwork and that have no deeper meaning per se. Not everyone can save the world. And anyway, that can’t happen every day. The expectation that you will come home every night and feel that you have done something profoundly meaningful today is therefore not realistic. Instead, it is advisable to find a basic purpose in your own activity, but this can – as already mentioned – be very small and it does not have to exist every day. So if you’re wondering how to find a job with purpose, you should first take the pressure off it. Because many people compulsively search for their calling, for which they jump out of bed joyfully every morning. Unfortunately, this expectation is unrealistic in most cases. Instead, the following questions can help you to find an individual purpose:
- Why do you want or have to go to work?
- Where are your talents?
- Which activities are out of the question for you?
- What activities do you see yourself in instead?
- What is important to you in your job?
- What does your employer have to do?
- What do you think is essential for a happy life?
You should ask yourself these or similar questions to find out what you can expect from your professional life. As mentioned earlier, some people want to make the world a better place and others just want to have as much time as possible with their families. All of the answers are fine. Such self-reflection helps you to find an individual motivation – and then the job or employer that suits it.
Developing potential should be everyone’s purpose
A good starting point for your choice is your strengths and talents. So think about what you find easy and fun. Yes, work can be fun. Besides, it should challenge you, but not overwhelm you. If you have found a job in which you can optimally develop your potential and which at the same time offers you the framework conditions that are important to you, for example, flexible working hours or a high income, you have already made a big step in the right direction. Then you can find an individual purpose. So it doesn’t have to be at the beginning of your decision, but can also be the last step. Sometimes it is enough to change your perspective and get a new perspective on your own work. Be it to make the customers happy. Be it working with colleagues who will make your day more fun. Be it to achieve a leadership position. Be it to develop technologies that serve climate protection. Everyone can find a purpose in their own activity if they look closely.
Conclusion: The sense must be put into perspective
If this is not the case with you, however, it makes perfect sense to consider a job change or a professional reorientation. If there is nothing left that motivates you to work, or it even becomes a burden, even a forced purpose does not improve the situation. Ultimately, you have to check for yourself how satisfied you are in your work life and what drives you. It is therefore important to see a purpose in one’s own activity. Nevertheless, the topic should be put into perspective. The purpose is “nice-to-have”, but you don’t have to make the world a better place to be happy at work. It can therefore also be individual and perhaps very modest. The main thing is that you are basically satisfied with the work. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, because only then will you stay healthy and successful in the long term. The purpose of the job does not have to give your whole life meaning, but you can and should look for it regardless of your job. Otherwise, a possible job loss also means that you no longer have any meaning in life – and that means that the purpose of the job would definitely be overrated.