Make your work more meaningful

By Penelope Trunk   Article

“When I was new to the workforce, I saw two ends of a spectrum. On one end, risking one’s life to save dying children, and on the other end, hedge-fund banking to make millions.

If you see the work world that way, then you feel compelled to choose between making good money or doing good deeds. But at this point, I don’t think the world breaks down like that. I think all jobs are meaningful.

1. Meaningfulness comes from relationships. 
My introduction to this way of thinking was Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research about happiness and work …. She found that janitors are happier than lawyers and the discrepancy arises from the amount of meaningfulness they perceived in their work.

The janitors felt that they were helping people by keeping the school running well. They knew the students and the teachers and they had a nice relationship with them: people asked for help, the janitor gave help, the person thanked the janitor.

With the lawyers, it’s the opposite. People hate having to ask a lawyer for help. … On top of that, a lawyer charges by the hour so there is almost never a thank you in exchange for a small piece of work. …

5. Look for opportunities.
My step-mom had cancer for more than a decade. She had a breast removed, she went into remission, then back to the hospital, then remission. … she kept going to work. The stability in her life was her job. … When she couldn’t be at the office, her co-workers took over her workload so her job would be there for her when she returned. Every time.

When an office comes together to support someone in crisis the whole office is infused with meaning. The strength they gave my step-mom by enabling her to come to work, in turn gave strength to the family members trying to help take care of her. … Look around you, all the time — look for people at work who need help with their work.  Caring for your co-workers might be the most meaningful part of work for all of us.”

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