Don’t Quit Your Job to Build Water Wells

Everywhere I turn, people are quitting their high-stressed and demanding jobs to pursue “more meaningful work.” I used to roll my eyes at that and snicker. And then the guilt would set in… Doing meaningful work hardly ever crossed my mind – I donated to charities, I volunteered, but I never felt compelled to create my career around something that would give back. I mean, all I knew about work was that it was cut throat, it was urgent, and things were happening.

“Meaningful work” continued to crop up in my consciousness no matter how hard I tried to ignore it – so I finally asked my friends if they were contemplating a bigger, more meaningful dream. Everyone froze and stumbled over their answers – apparently I wasn’t the only one feeling guilty for not wanting to join the Peace Corps or work full-time at a non-profit. I have so much respect for people who do make traditional meaningful work their life mission – it’s just not for me right now. Instead, I’ve created my own definition of meaning, and encourage you to do the same.

The most important step to create a more meaningful job, is to figure out what is important to YOU. Not what society tells you is important, not the heartbreaking commercials about ASPCA (I seriously cry each time I hear “In the Arms of an Angel” starts playing with that commercial), not what your parents expect – the definition of meaning is the purpose or significance of something. That “something” is what you need to define for yourself, in order to be fulfilled through any path. So, don’t quit your job unless you feel compelled that meaningful work for you means building water wells.

5 Steps to Add Meaning to Your Current Career

  1. Find a company that helps people: I wanted to see if there was a difference in my connection between my job and my company, if the company was doing actual things that benefited people. So I got a job in the medical industry where the products we made, literally saved people lives. It instantly added perspective and levity around what I was doing, and what the company as a whole was trying to achieve (and this was at a large corporation!). Find a company in a field that you connect with or that aids others, and get a job in your functional area, there.
  2. Take into account, all of the people you are already impacting: Meaningful work doesn’t mean that it only applies to those in dire straits. Take a look around at the things you are already doing on a daily basis – who do you help out, how do you make things easier for others, how do those small things impact their family?
  3. Consider working in a department that interacts with customers more frequently: Most client-facing jobs provide several opportunities for you to add value to their lives by helping them troubleshoot a problem, be the person they needed to talk to, or finding them a solution.
  4. Apply your skills in the hospitality or service industry: Having direct contact with people while they are traveling or out celebrating an event, you have the opportunity to play a big role in the total impact for the day/night/event, etc. Your level of service and attitude directly influences the customer’s experience – what better way to have instantaneous results?
  5. Remind others how meaningful they are to you: That saying that it’s better to give than receive because it comes back to you tenfold, is absolutely true! Tell the people that you work with just how impactful their support/guidance/assistance, has been to your life.