Helping employees find purpose is becoming an integral part of organizational engagement. Here, we talk to professionals about their process of discovering purpose and how this can be instilled in workforce planning.

Do a Google search for the word ‘purpose’ and you may find several definitions: “The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” “Something set up as an object or end to be attained.”  “An intention or aim; a reason for doing something or allowing something to happen” There’s purpose in everything we do. This includes why we work – to sustain ourselves and our loved ones and to provide a decent quality of life. While this understanding may suffice for some people, a paycheck alone is not enough for Natalie Wise. 

“I’ve always wanted my work to be meaningful.”

After earning her Masters in Writing from Portland State, she envisioned a publishing career in her future. The great recession of 2008 changed that, though. She pivoted and built a successful career as a Marketing Specialist and Content Strategist for a number of organizations. Despite her individual accomplishments, there was always something missing. “I was never fully satisfied with my work and it impacted my mental health. It just all seemed like a money machine, like everyone was money grabbing. I’ve always had an altruistic nature.” Natalie echoes sentiments expressed by many millennials and Gen-Zers who value social causes and responsibility. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent social unrest have inspired millennials and Gen-Zers to make a positive impact on society.  “I really prefer to stick with a company or organization that has purpose and meaning, something that I connect with. I want to be involved with social causes.” Supporting social causes may provide a much needed sense of purpose in people’s jobs and careers. Many struggle to navigate this terrain, however: Should I leave my corporate job for a non-profit organization? Do I encourage social responsibility at the corporate level? What am I passionate about? How can I use my passions to make the world a better place?  Dr. Amber Nelson (PsyD) is the Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at George Fox University. She says discovering passions can be a bit of a process. “Remove the pressure to know your passion right off the bat. Give yourself the space to explore when you notice you feel tension around a certain issue or cause. Spend time with yourself noticing your reactions to things. These things could be your passions. Then give yourself opportunities to get involved in something related to that.” Dr Nelson also says that volunteering offers a chance to explore if you truly care about this cause. Employees, consumers, and other stakeholders are calling for organizations to create positive and lasting social change. For some companies, this is uncharted territory. This can also be especially challenging for individuals who want to be socially responsible but don’t know where to start.
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Dr. Nelson continues: “There is a theoretical orientation called ACT-Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that involves asking what your values are and what you care about. Then you make decisions based on that. Can you do things within your institution? You can do things outside of your institution as well, and get involved with non-profit organizations.” “But do not forget to lean into your community of support and give yourself a break when needed. None of the issues of the day are going to be solved quickly. Find the little things in your day to day that you resolve.”  Natalie will continue to look for opportunities to serve at nonprofits and organizations that focus on education, social, and environmental issues. She says that 2020 has ultimately revealed to her what really matters.  “I’ve had a lot of time to myself [this year]. When I was working, I’d put all this effort into doing my hair, and getting dressed to look a certain way. Then I realized that it didn’t matter anymore. Everything was irrelevant except my values.” If you find yourself wondering how to align your values, interests, and passion with your career, check out these tips: Take time to reflect Ask yourself, what are you passionate about? What gets you excited? What would you love to do, even if you didn’t get paid for it? What do you like doing and what do you NOT like doing? What are your core values and principles? Lean into your support group, including close friends and family members who know you well, as they may offer valuable insight to help you understand what you’re passionate about. Explore through volunteering Volunteering is a fun, easy, and stress-free way to explore what interests you. You can volunteer as frequently as your schedule permits. Volunteering allows you to build your social network and connect with people who share the same passion and interests. These connections may share ideas to enlighten, enthuse, and energize you! Put purpose into action Evaluate your circumstances and ask yourself if you’re able to incorporate your passions and interests into your current role? Perhaps there may be an opportunity to be involved in community projects that align with the vision and values of your company. There are also business cases to be made for corporate philanthropy.
How is your organization helping team members find purpose in their work? Walker Tracker can help you with that. Click here to speak with our sales team. At Walker Tracker we are writing a series about finding purpose in work. Email me to share your insights and be featured in our series.