How To Find Meaningful Work

More and more people want a job that gives more than just a paycheck. A new breed of organizations are helping to connect workers with jobs that make a difference as well as a salary.

How To Find Meaningful Work
Pavel V Mukhin/Shutterstock

It’s a phenomenon that has become increasingly apparent over the last five years: For many people, the ideal job has morphed from one that offers lots of money to one that offers meaning–and a competitive salary doesn’t hurt, either. It isn’t just that people are rejecting jobs at large financial institutions with questionable morals (see this New York Times article on Wall Street’s campus recruiting crisis). Jobseekers today want a position that makes them feel good inside.


ReWork, a startup that came out of the 2011 Unreasonable Institute, may be the first company that places young professionals directly with “disruptive, world changing organizations“–including non-profits and all manner of triple-bottom-line businesses. Anyone interested in getting a job through ReWork fills out an application on the website. When a company that has signed up needs employees, they send their job openings over to ReWork before anything is posted to the public. ReWork in turn sends over a list of qualified candidates. If the company selects a candidate from the pool–as opposed to a headhunting firm or somewhere else–ReWork gets a payment.

ReWork currently works with 15 to 25 companies (for now, most are in Pittsburgh and Boulder, Colorado, but that will change). That’s a number that will expand greatly once ReWork brings on more job candidates. The startup has 130 candidates across the country in some stage of the screening process. That may not sound impressive, but ReWork just opened up for full-time placements February–and everything has been through word of mouth. ReWork expects to have its first five to six full-time job placements within the next three months.

Most of the applicants are at least three to four years into their career, says Nathaniel Koloc, co-founder of ReWork. “I’d say 60% to 70% are people who feel like something is missing from their work, and the other 40% are still trying to figure out what their career looks like,” he explains.

This month, ReWork is teaming up with a handful of higher education institutions and fellowship programs, including the Monterey Institute, Bentley College, Compass Partners and StartingBloc. Anyone associated with these organizations will get fast-tracked through ReWork’s application process.

ReWork offers a unique service, but there are other resources for jobseekers who want to do good. Idealist offers job listings for people seeking meaningful careers (many of the organizations that post there are nonprofits). Sites like Greenbiz and Green Job Search have more environmentally focused job listings.

“The conversations we have with people are very, very emotionally driven, and I don’t know that 10 years ago there were as many opportunities to fulfill these feelings, or how many companies had the balance of income, viability, meaning, and value of work,” says Koloc. “It definitely feels like something is happening with this right now.”

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.