As a child, you probably dreamed of being a doctor, an artist, a firefighter or President of the United States. The fantasy jobs of children remain remarkably consistent because they all have one thing in common: they are fulfilling careers that contribute to the world in an important way.
Of course, as you get older, your definition of meaningful careers becomes more nuanced. For some, supporting a family is sufficient. But most of us aspire to satisfying that childhood instinct for a job that makes the world a better place. However, there are far more careers that can fit the bill than you may initially think.
In my experience as an executive recruiter, I’ve observed that there are a handful of key reasons people find careers meaningful.
Improving the lives of those in need is at the heart of finding a meaningful career for many professionals and certainly has the most obvious impact. Think beyond charitable work. Medical professionals, religious leaders, civil servants, teachers, interpreters and more all impact lives every day and report high levels of meaning associated with their careers.
Running an organization
C-suite executives and entrepreneurs may not seem like the poster children for finding fulfillment, but these professionals have an enormous sense of meaning. They are essential to proving a product or service, creating jobs and caring for a workforce.
Having a lasting impact
Contributing something to the world that will outlive you is also a profound motivator. That could mean writing a book, inventing a product, designing buildings, or even raising a child. It goes towards the end goal of a legacy to be remembered by.
The Human Touch
For many, a workplace is more than just a place to conduct business. Colleagues become a personal and professional support system. Mentoring younger professionals or supporting others through tough times can imbue day-to-day office life with purpose.
Artists, musicians and other creative professionals are unique in that their fulfillment originates in self-expression. For these folks, expressing themselves is meaningful in and of itself but they also find meaning in inspiring others, giving enjoyment and promoting discourse.
With so many ways for work to be meaningful, finding fulfillment can sometimes be as easy as changing your mindset as opposed to changing career paths.
What makes work meaningful to you? Share your experiences with us.