How to Work with More Meaning…and Get Paid

Why do you work?  As we emerge from the rubble of the Great Recession, more people from a variety of sectors and in different stages of life are searching for a more meaningful “why” behind the work they do.

Why do you work?  As we emerge from the rubble of the Great Recession, more people from a variety of sectors and in different stages of life are searching for a more meaningful “why” behind the work they do.


Paying the bills continues to be important, but there’s a growing awareness that work needs to be about more than money.  As we have seen, the money either isn’t going to be there in the amounts it was before or it can disappear in an instant.  Here are some of the discussions about and resources supporting the movement to find paid work with greater meaning that have come to my attention over the past week.

Looking for an Encore Career?  The guide to finding work that matters by Encore Careers

As they approach traditional “retirement,” many Baby Boomers want to work and make money but they also want their work to have greater purpose.  Following its recently announced Encore Opportunity Awards, Civic Ventures paves the way to a purpose-driven job with its excellent new guide, “Looking for an Encore Career?”

According to Marci Alboher, Senior Fellow with Civic Ventures, the core tenents of an Encore Career are 1) continued income, 2) personal meaning, and 3) social impact, “This generation is looking to change the world in this next phase of their lives.  They are returning to the values of Kennedy, and they are interested in service, giving back and having impact.”  Many of areas in which people have launched successful encore careers have also seen some of the greatest job growth:  social services, government, education and green jobs.

Alboher and I agree that everyone should begin their “encore planning” as early as possible because this is the new vision of retirement.  And much of the planning for an encore career can, and should, be done while you are still working in your primary job.  You can chart the winding path of research, informational interviews, conferences and trying out different options.  When the moment arrives to make the transition, you are ready.

And you don’t necessarily need to wait until retirement.  The Encore Career guide is an excellent resource for anyone in any stage of life looking for a purpose-driven job.  In fact, I realized after reading the guide and talking to Marci that I started my encore career in 1993 at the age of 29.  That’s when I left banking, went back to school and entered the work+life field.   For the past 16 years, I’ve made money (albeit initially less than I made as a banker), found personal meaning and have had social impact.  I need to start planning my second encore!


Finding Meaning in Your Current Job – Authentic Organizations Blog

As CV Harquail points out in an insightful post on her Authentic Organization’s blog, you don’t have to leave your current job to find more meaning.  In “How Job Crafting Can Get You Closer to Authentic Work,” Harquail, a former Darden b-school professor, explains how the revolutionary concept of job crafting (also outlined in a recent Time Magazine article) can help everyone build more meaning into their existing work,

“Job crafting is the practice of (re-)shaping the job that you are expected to do so that you can enlarge the parts that are important to you. Through job crafting, an employee can take on new activities, new responsibilities, and new relationships, making the job so bigger (or smaller), more interesting, more useful, and overall more closely linked to their strengths and interests.”

Harquail not only outlines the key principals of job crafting but then offers three “how to” get started steps as well as a link to a job crafting tool.
THEN, in another post, “A Job Crafting Example: The Pink Glove Dance,” she shares an inspiring, concrete example of job crafting in action that I just loved!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with video, “The Pink Glove Dance,” it features employees of a hospital—doctors, nurses, lab technicians and janitors—wearing pink gloves and dancing to a song in order to raise breast cancer awareness.   Harquail pays particular attention to the janitor in the video, and cites academic research that studied ways janitors in hospital settings added meaning to their work by talking with patients.   Inspiring.

After reading both of these posts on job crafting and viewing “The Pink Glove Dance” video with that concept in mind, you can’t help but begin to see how more meaning can be built into every job.


Other Noteworthy “Work with Meaning” Highlights:

  • In a speech at West Point, GE’s chief executive, Jeff Immelt challenged the “meanness and greed” of business leaders, “We are at the end of a difficult generation of business leadership … tough-mindedness, a good trait, was replaced by meanness and greed, both terrible traits. Rewards became perverted. The richest people made the most mistakes with the least accountability.”  He continued with a call to action for a different model of leadership.
  • I participated in a virtual retreat “Catching up to the Future that is Already Here,” sponsored by WorldatWork and the Alliance for Work-Life Progress.  One of the participants, Annette Byrd from GlaxoSmithKline talked about the company’s innovative program that helps employees align their personal mission statement with the mission statement of the company and their job.

Whether through an encore career, job crafting, a powerful CEO discrediting the greed of an era, or a company encouraging the link between personal and corporate mission, the movement for work with meaning is growing.  What do you think?  Do see examples of people searching for more meaning in the work they do as part of the new work+life flex normal?