Should your job be the main provider of your sense of purpose?

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Should your job be the main provider of a sense of purpose? I am starting to realise now that if my I think my work will be the thing that allows me to reach my highest calling I’ll be disappointed. I’ve been thinking about this as I coach and I’ve changed my mind: hands up. I now believe that a job can contribute to your sense of purpose rather than BEING your purpose (click the Soundcloud audio at the bottom if you’d prefer to hear my Australian accent rather than read!).

This post summarises what I mean. Most people the author interviewed who seemed fulfilled and working towards their purpose via their career had only found it inadvertently. They did not hold off until a job offer completely chimed with who they were.

If you are looking for work, I still believe it is important to find something that does not rankle with your values or identity.  I’d also encourage you to stop striving for an end point, where all your goals are achieved by a deadline. Discover a sense of purpose as you go along. In effect, that process is more important.

Don’t you think this takes alot of pressure off in the job search?

Achieving purpose is not something we should strive to achieve in a time frame Instead, each step forward gets you closer and I tell my coaching clients that is enough.  Jordan Lee Dooley in Own Your Everyday describes the magic of each day unfolding and letting it do just that, at your pace. She exhorts the reader to move away from the comparison of thinking we should do a job for affirmation or because we see it working for someone else.

No jealousy only joy

She encourages us to “replace jealousy with joy” getting ourselves off the hook of thinking someone else is doing it better.  Instead, enjoying the fact that we took a baby step in the right direction, or took a new risk, or walked through a failure. Someone I am coaching right now after a career break cannot even face her CV let alone work out her purpose. I set her some baby goals of reaching out to just two people that she used to work with for a coffee. We spoke today and she is in a completely different place to our first call. She has reached out, got two more meetings from it with ex-line managers, says she is in a “different mindset”.

Don’t look at your friend who has just landed the “dream role” or is “bossing it” instead celebrate the fullness of YOUR process. Don’t assume she has fulfilled her sense of purpose with that job. What did you achieve this week that you didn’t last? What interview or call did you set up? Did you tweak your CV or profile? Research a new industry or trends? Maybe you just drafted an email that you couldn’t do last week because you were so scared of rejection. These vital steps move you towards your overall goals, your purpose. My client’s big picture is getting into clinical research in her old industry. The immediate step, though,  is to get back into work and cover the bills. One step will serve the other.

Fierce friend

Dooley suggests a 30 day challenge where you do not say anything to yourself that you would not say to a friend. We might say this to a friend, “what do you have to lose” “is there enough in that role or that company that you think could keep you happy?”. this to a friend instead of “Stop! Hold out! Wait until you know exactly what you are put on the planet to do, then find the job that corresponds!”. The pressure of that statement is anything but encouraging.

If I were your friend I would say please don’t wait to have it all figured out. Dooley urges us to learning about what makes a meaningful life, not just a comfortable one. I interviewed Lucy from Brave Starts . She offers a career shadowing service to help people pivot into new careers later in life. She said “(Laura) I am not killing it (making millions with a huge followership) on Instagram. But I am busy and doing fulfilling work! She got there by taking risks, following her opportunities and capitalising on  her business psychology background. She experimented and just moved forward and now runs an impactful business. Was her purpose clear from the outset? Definitely not.

We put too much pressure on ourselves to find work nirvana

I believe put too much pressure on ourselves to be fulfilled at work. We can trust in a more organic process than the business books recommend and still end up doing work that is in line with who we are. Here are some tips for staying attuned to what’s important to you in the job search, rather than putting pressure on to hold out for The Perfect Job:

Try a paid or free strengths questionnaire to work out where your gifts lie

Ask trusted friends and colleagues what they think you’d be suited to – they know

Start a short, simple mindfulness practice to help focus on what is important to you

Avoid wanting something because you see another with it. You do you. But forgive yourself for comparing as well, you are human

Read this article on how to stop putting pressure on yourself

This is progress and it all contributes to your sense of purpose and of achievement. And perhaps that is enough for now. Should your job be the main provider of your sense of purpose? I think we should define our measures of fulfilment differently. Let ourselves off the hook and then perhaps we can allow real meaning and sense of purpose to offer us an invitation.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels


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