For many people, work is just that - work. It's a means to a paycheck, a way to pay the bills and support oneself and one's family. While work may provide material needs, it often lacks a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. However, this does not have to be the case. Purpose at work is often built, not found. In other words, it is possible to consciously shape your perspective of work in order to infuse greater meaning into your daily job.
Today we will explore four key strategies for doing this: 1) Connect work to service 2) Craft your work 3) Invest in relationships and 4) Remember your why. While purpose may not simply emerge on its own, with thoughtful effort, even the most mundane job can become deeply meaningful. Additionally, we will explore detailed examples of how to apply these strategies to instill a sense of purpose in one's daily work.
Connecting Work to Service
The first strategy is to consciously connect your work to service - to think about who you are ultimately helping or serving through your job. For instance, a customer service representative at an insurance company can view their role as serving policyholders - helping them understand their coverage, file claims smoothly, and deal with issues. A janitor can see their role as serving the employees and customers of the building by providing clean and sanitary spaces.
Some concrete ways to implement this strategy include:
Identifying the end beneficiary of your work. Who uses your company's products or services? Who benefits from your role?
Reminding yourself of this "who" you serve before starting tasks, interactions with customers/colleagues, or when feeling unmotivated.
Reflecting on verbal or written feedback from those you serve - e.g., thank you notes from customers to reinforce your role in their lives.
If you struggle to see the service in your role, discuss with colleagues to gain other perspectives on your shared mission.
Crafting Your Work
In addition to connecting work outwardly to those it serves, you can also craft your work itself to be more meaningful. This involves finding ways to shape your tasks, build skills, and improve processes on a daily basis.
An administrative assistant could take on the craft of mastering efficiency in scheduling, documentation, and overall office management.
A construction worker could focus on perfecting specific masonry or tiling techniques to take pride in the craftsmanship of their work.
A social media manager could choose to improve their visual design skills to create content that effectively engages target audiences.
A claims adjuster could build their ability to empathetically communicate with customers in difficult situations.
This sense of craftsmanship also involves dedicating oneself to continuous learning. Taking on training, courses, or mentoring focused on elevating your skills can help boost purpose in your daily work.
Investing in Relationships
Relationships are another key source of meaning. When you feel connected to the people you work amongst, showing up each day becomes much more worthwhile. You feel that you are part of a community, working towards a shared mission.
Strategies for building purposeful relationships include:
Making an effort to regularly connect with colleagues one-on-one, not just discussing work, but showing genuine interest in them.
Avoiding cliques or exclusivity - ensure no one feels isolated, especially new hires or more junior team members.
Celebrating shared accomplishments and events that bring the team together, like launch of a new product.
Pitching in to help colleagues who may be overloaded or struggling with a task.
Resolving interpersonal conflicts quickly through open communication - don't let issues fester.
Remembering Your Why
Lastly, the most essential strategy is to continually reconnect with your personal "why" - the reason you work in the first place. Your most powerful motivator is those you work for - often your family, children, partners or other loved ones. Keeping these people at the forefront reminds you that your efforts create security and opportunity for those who matter most.
Some ways to implement this:
Keeping a photo of your personal "why" - your family, children, etc. visible in your workspace.
Reflecting on what/who you are grateful for before starting your workday.
Imagining how you are serving your "why" through your work when tasks get difficult or tedious.
Discussing with family members how your work supports them - gaining their perspectives.
Setting up a college or retirement fund for your children powered by your income to make the connection tangible.
A sense of purpose and meaning in your work is often built by consciously shaping your perspective - it does not simply emerge on its own. With thoughtfulness and daily practice, even mundane or routine jobs can become deeply meaningful. The four strategies discussed - connecting work to service, crafting your work, building relationships and remembering your why - provide impactful ways to instill purpose that anyone can implement.
While finding fulfillment in work takes effort, the benefits make it more than worthwhile - from improved job satisfaction, to better performance, to overall well-being. When you can connect your daily tasks to the people served, relationships built, craft improved and personal driving motivators, you transform work from merely a paycheck to a source of meaning, identity and genuine fulfillment. With intention and persistence, a sense of purpose in your work is within reach.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.